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PCC President Joins Governor for Discussion on Benefits of Connect NC Bond Passage

This week's Connect NC Bond meeting at the East Carolina Heart Institute featured remarks from N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory, ECU Chancellor Steve Ballard, PCC President G. Dennis Massey (left to right) and N.C. Department of Public Safety Sec. Frank Perry (not pictured).

• PHOTO GALLERY

GREENVILLE—Pitt Community College President G. Dennis Massey joined Gov. Pat McCrory at the East Carolina Heart Institute Monday to stress the importance of bond funding to make improvements to North Carolina’s infrastructure, educational systems, safety and state parks.

The meeting, which also featured East Carolina University Chancellor Steve Ballard and N.C. Department of Public Safety Sec. Frank Perry, focused on a proposed $2 billion-state bond North Carolina voters will decide on March 15.

Supporters of the Connect NC Bond say the money is about North Carolina’s future and will connect the state to the 21st century through investments in education, parks, safety, recreation, and water and sewer infrastructure.

“It’s not if we need to do it, it’s when,” McCrory said, adding that the longer it takes to make the improvements, the more expensive they will be. He pointed out that the bond would not require a tax increase and interest rates are historically low, making it less expensive to borrow money.

“The debt (North Carolina) has in five years with these bonds will be less than what it is today,” McCrory said.

More than 15 years have passed since North Carolinians last approved a general obligation bond to upgrade the state’s infrastructure. In the time that has passed, the Tar Heel State’s population has grown by two million residents and surpassed the 10 million mark.

Despite the population increase, McCrory said the state is facing worker shortages in a number of key areas, including nursing, welding and automotive service technicians. He said bond funding would help the state compete with surrounding states in attracting skilled workers for those positions and to train current residents for them.

“If we don’t have a talented workforce, we won’t attract new industry and we’ll lose what we have,” he said.

To help reduce the skills gap, Massey said PCC and other community colleges are placing emphasis on specific programming.

“We’re working hard to increase our programs in the trades, in automotive and welding, in areas that are really desperately in need of people who are committed … to that profession,” he said.

If the Connect NC bond passes, the state’s 58 community colleges will receive $350 million (or 17 percent of the bond total). Of that sum, PCC would receive a little less than $8.4 million.

“The strategy of this state bond is excellent, because it really is slated to impact and benefit all sectors of the State of North Carolina,” Massey said. “And one great way to do that is to invest in the community college system because it exists in all counties of the state—eastern North Carolina included.”

Massey said the Connect NC Bond would support community colleges statewide in their efforts to provide workforce development, university preparation for college transfer students, and continuing education courses to meet needs of business and industry. He said PCC was working very closely with the state’s universities to support the development of a talented workforce, particularly with ECU on Pre-Engineering and Advanced Manufacturing programs.

“If we’re to reach the goal (Gov. McCrory) has set by 2025 of having 67 percent of our working adult age population have education beyond high school, we have 450,000 jobs we have to prepare people for by that date,” Massey said. “Now that’s a tough goal, but we can reach that goal, because we have already seen a tremendous increase in our training capacities.”

Massey said PCC would provide information to alumni, current students and community supporters regarding the importance of the Connect NC Bond.

“We know what’s at stake, and we know without this we’re going to be much worse off as a state,” he said. “We need this to move forward.”

Last summer, McCrory visited the PCC campus to promote the bond with state and local legislators representing Pitt and six surrounding counties. Essentially, his message was that the Connect NC Bond would allow North Carolina to begin the long-neglected task of building and upgrading its infrastructure. Projects, he said, would take place in 76 of the state’s 100 counties.

Even with the bond, however, a majority of North Carolina’s infrastructure needs, including projects at community colleges and universities, will remain unmet. But supporters say the funding will go a long way toward connecting more citizens to educational and recreational opportunities, including repairs to state parks throughout North Carolina and the North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro. It will also provide much-needed funding for the N.C. National Guard.

Another important point cited by those in favor of the bond is that state legislators would continue to balance the budget and uphold North Carolina’s position as one of only 10 states to hold the coveted Triple-A bond rating from all three major ratings agencies. The State Treasurer and the nonpartisan Debt Affordability Committee have determined that the Connect NC bond proposal is well within the state’s current debt affordability.


03/09/2016