Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Legislative Trip to Raleigh: UPDATE

Last week, we traveled to Raleigh to meet with other Chambers and our State legislature to represent Blowing Rock and our needs for funding. Below is a report from our trip.

Attendees from Blowing Rock:
-       Charles Hardin: President Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce
-       Jim McDowell: Chair of Community, Government, and Education Committee
-       Tony Rand: former State Senator and committee member
-       Linda Gilleland: VP and Agency Mgr., Greystone Insurance and committee member
-       Pam Vines: Owner/Broker Jenkins Realty and committee member

Purpose of trip:
Participate in Western NC Chambers Raleigh Legislative Visit 2018

Tuesday, June 6
Political Strategist Debate moderated by Joe Stewart
-       Republican and Democrat strategist perspective of political landscape and election 2018 potential.
New Outdoor Industry Office update and introduction to Director David Knight
-       North Carolina’s Outdoor Recreation Economy generates $19.2 billion in consumer spending and supports 192,000 jobs according to the 2012 Outdoor Recreation Economy Report. Updated statistics will be unveiled on Wednesday, July 26, at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market.
The new position which is similar to those in Utah, Colorado and Washington, is funded in the state budget beginning in January 2018.
NC Chamber Presentation
-       Meaghan Lewis is the Government Affairs Manager and presented workforce and education initiatives and funding
-       Cole Hughes is the political director and provided an overview of political initiatives, campaign support and engagement for senators and reps with strong job support records.
-       Gary Salamido is the VP of Government Affairs and provided additional insight into “Build NC” concept, education bond, skills education and employment, and overall condition of NC as it relates to workforce supply and demand.
Legislative Reception
-       Members of the NC Senate and House were invited and attended a reception with our delegation.  Hosted by Mission Health.  Jonathan and Deanna were not able to attend due to legislative meetings, but they joined us for dinner.  We took advantage of the opportunity to meet and greet other chamber executives and attendees.
Dinner Meeting with Deanna Ballard and Jonathan Jordan
-       Discussed issues in Blowing Rock that require addition funding, including
o   Glen Burney Trail
o   American Legion and Park upfit (VaTech Proposal)
o   Sunset upfit
o   Broadband access

Wednesday, June 6
Overview of Department of Public Instruction with State Superintendent Mark Johnson
-       Mark provided an overview of his impressive education experience and election to office. 
-       Provided his goals of improving the education system, testing, efforts to streamline and reduce burdens on parents, and literacy focus. 
-       Adaptive Learning focus. 
-       Discussed the new emphasis on skills that lead to careers that do not require a four-year college/university education. 
-       Initiatives to get funding dollars into the system that have been sitting idle.
Meeting with Health and Human Services, Deputy Sec. of HHS Mark Benton, and Interim Director of Mental Health Kody Kinsley.
-       HHS has approximately 36 agencies and 14K employees
-       Initiative to pull together physical and behavioral health
-       Address the adverse (early) childhood experiences and impact on education
-       Overview of opioids addiction and community’s efforts to address individuals
-       Provided insight on how chambers and their members can help:
o   Enact strong workplace safety strategies, drug policies and drug panel testing,
o   Training to spot first signs of drug abuse
o   Treat substance abuse as a disease
o   Become a champion in our communities
Meeting with Appalachian Regional Commission, Olivia Collier ARC Program Manager, and Wesley Barker ARC Community Development Planner.
-       Olivia provided an overview of the ARC’s role and engagements in our immediate area:
o   $300k for the pump station at Chestnut Ridge
o   $2.5M for access road
o   $300K for Doughton Park on the Blue Ridge Parkway
o   $9200 for Broadband Access on Sunset Drive (which she had to fight for)
-       Introduced Wesley Barker and his role as Community Development.  He is available to help us with strategic plans and grant requests.
-       We discussed local needs for funding:
o   Glen Burney Trail (not in their area)
o   Utility and power line relocation for Main St. and Sunset Dr.
o   BB access for remote areas to promote additional educational opportunities and access.

Following our meetings, Tony Rand, former State Senator for over 20 years and Senate Majority Leader, service on The Parole Commission, and currently serving on the Lottery Commission,  and a member of The Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce, and serves on the Community, Government, and Education Committee, provided a tour of the Senate and House Chambers, where many people stopped us and recognized him……….Thanks Tony!

Submitted by Jim McDowell
June 8, 2018

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