Connect N.C. bond vital to Anson County’s future

By: Philip L. Dubois and Michael Lutes - Contributing Columnists

In less than a month, North Carolina voters go to the polls for the March 15 primary election. While the top of the ticket has many important races, we want to make sure all voters consider the importance of this issue to Anson County, which will appear near the bottom of the ballot.

The $2 billion Connect N.C. bond is vital to the state’s long-term future, providing funding for the University of North Carolina system, community colleges, state parks, local water and sewer system improvements, the National Guard and public safety.

UNC Charlotte, South Piedmont Community College and Carolinas HealthCare System Anson are tied together by the workforce demand for health care professionals in the fastest-growing industry in our community. Our colleges train the caregivers that health systems, such as CHS Anson, need to care for millions of patients across the Carolinas. And, the demand is growing as our population ages. There is no question we need a strong, well-trained health care workforce.

Consider the growth in our university system, as well as the emerging focus on STEM:

• UNC Charlotte has grown from 11,000 students to 28,000 since the current science building was built in 1985. More students are choosing science-related majors, with more than 50 percent of students in sciences, engineering and math. Investments through the bond package across the UNC system are focused on STEM-related buildings including the $90 million science building at UNC Charlotte and the Health Sciences building at Appalachian State University.

• South Piedmont and UNC Charlotte work together to help students transfer to earn their bachelor’s degree. UNC Charlotte admits the largest number of community college students in the UNC system; this year 2,100 undergraduates enrolled at the university who transferred from community colleges, including 176 from South Piedmont Community College.

• South Piedmont Community College stands to receive $3.2 million through this bond package for renovation and repair of facilities in Union and Anson counties. The college would further renovate its Center for Technology and Health Education, adding labs, program-specific classrooms and general use classrooms. South Piedmont is a proven leader in health care workforce training. Of the 456 degrees, diplomas and certificates awarded by South Piedmont in May 2015, 95 (more than 20 percent) related to health sciences programs.

• Nearly 50 students from Anson County and 1,800 students from Union County attend UNC Charlotte. Our campus represents 61 percent of the growth in the entire UNC system. Without the new science building, the university will not be able to grow and accommodate the demand from this community. In fact, without this new building, the university’s enrollment growth will be stopped in its tracks. The new science facility also is crucial to meet the high demand for workforce talent by regional employers, including CHS Anson.

While education is a big part of the story, there are other reasons why Anson County voters should support the bond package:

• The bonds will benefit agriculture across the state by providing $179 million for agricultural research facilities that are important to our area. Agri-business remains an important part of Anson County’s economic base, and the investment will help area farmers improve yields, become more profitable, create jobs and improve the tax base.

• Similarly, the bond package provides $309 million to help county and municipal governments fund critical improvements to their water and sewer systems. This is important in helping retain and recruit new industries and commerce to both Anson and Union counties and the state.

• Our state parks will also benefit from the bond package with $100 million dedicated to facility improvements for park facilities and the North Carolina Zoo. And finally, there will be a $70 million investment for new National Guard training facilities.

Voters also need to know this important initiative will not increase taxes. The bond package is necessary to keep up with the demands of a growing population. Since the last major bond issue in 2000, North Carolina’s population has increased by 2 million people!

Invest in your county’s future on March 15 by voting yes for the Connect N.C. Bond.

Philip L. Dubois is the chancellor at University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Michael Lutes is the president of Carolinas HealthCare System’s southeast division, which includes Anson, Union and Stanly counties.

Philip L. Dubois and Michael Lutes

Contributing Columnists