McDowell Technical Community College administrators gathered this week with partners from a variety of public safety and government agencies from across McDowell County to initiate a dialogue around the collective needs and ideas for future upgrades to fire, rescue, and emergency services training facilities throughout the county.
The catalyst for the meeting was to discuss the group’s vision for use of a $1 million allocation McDowell Tech recently received from the State Capital and Infrastructure Fund (SCIF) in the FY 2021‐22 State Budget, earmarked for Public Safety Training in the county. Specifically, the purpose of the allocation is to create a large driving track—very large, in fact; 500 ft. by 500 ft.—that can be jointly used by MTCC and the college’s public safety partners in law enforcement, fire service, emergency services training, McDowell County Schools, and other partner agencies.
The group also took time to express appreciation to Representative Dudley Greene (NC-85) of the North Carolina General Assembly, who was in attendance to discuss plans for the allocation.
Representative Greene’s advocacy was key to securing the allocated funds. As a former McDowell County Sheriff, Greene approached McDowell Tech about funding needs for public safety training and advocated to the General Assembly for those funds.
“I am pleased to be a part of the first planning session, along with personnel from the community college, law enforcement, fire service, EMS, the school system and both city and county governments,” said Greene. “I was happy to advocate for this $1M direct appropriation in our state budget to get this important project underway for our community’s agencies in our district and beyond!”
MTCC President, Dr. Brian S. Merritt, also expressed his appreciation for the new infrastructure dollars. “We are grateful to Representative Greene and to Senator Ralph Hise, who represent McDowell County in separate chambers at the General Assembly, for their help in securing support for McDowell County in this year’s state budget. They are fierce advocates for North Carolina’s community colleges,” he said.
“The ‘Great 58’ community colleges across North Carolina are a job-creating engine for the state, and we are laser-focused on helping employers meet their growing workforce demands. Current and future investments in the North Carolina Community College System will be necessary to ensure that we have the talent, human capital, and infrastructure needed to satisfy the needs of our employer partners, as well as those of our students.”
During Monday’s visioning meeting, Dr. Merritt also presented findings from a recent study on the economic impact of the North Carolina Community College System. Drilling down to the local level, the study revealed significant positive impacts MTCC’s programs have on McDowell County’s economy, the return on investment (ROI) to the programs’ students, and the benefits generated for North Carolina taxpayers.
A few highlights of the findings include:
- One out of every 14 jobs in McDowell County is supported by the activities of MTCC and its students.
- The presence of MTCC and its alumni in McDowell County is equivalent to an economic boost similar to hosting the World Series 9 times annually.
- In MTCC’s Basic Law Enforcement Training (BLET) program alone, those who complete the program increase their lifetime earnings by approximately $180,200.
- In FY 2019-20, MTCC alumni generated $54.7 million in added income to the county’s economy, which is equivalent to supporting 1,194 jobs.
The NC State Budget also included a larger SCIF allocation of $400,000,000 for capital improvement projects at all 58 community colleges in North Carolina. MTCC’s portion of that larger allocation is $2.173 million. Proceeds can be used for new facility construction or rehabilitation of existing facilities, repairs and renovations, improving technology infrastructure, and the purchase of measures to ensure building security, and the planning process for those is underway.
“This public safety training allocation is not for MTCC—it is for our community. The funds will help improve the quality of the training provided with partners in our region,” said Merritt. “We look forward to continuing our collaboration to provide the best solutions to workforce demands.”
Photo identification: (left to right)
Ricky Buchanan, McDowell County Sheriff
Ashley Wooten, McDowell County Manager
Adam Ledbetter, Coordinator of the MTCC Motorcycle Rider Course
Sam Arrowood, Coordinator of Law Enforcement In-Service Training
Brian Piercy, President of McDowell County Firefighters Association
Dr. Brian S. Merritt, MTCC President
Eugene Edwards, MTCC Director of EMS Programs
Representative Dudley Greene (NC-85), NC House
William Kehler, Director of Emergency Services, McDowell County
Stacy Buff, Dean of Career and Technical Education
Joe Washburn, Chief of Sugar Hill Volunteer Fire Department
Ronald Morgan, MTCC Director of Fire Training
Ray McDaniel, Chief, Marion Fire Department