Officials survey economic outlook
By COREY DAVIS
Saturday, August 5, 2017
Several elected officials and people from across the Twin Counties came out Friday to hear from federal and state officials about the state of transportation infrastructure and creating more jobs.
The “Jobs First: Building for Our Future” event in the lobby of the Helen P. Gay Historic Rocky Mount Train Station was hosted by U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-1st District. The event was the first stop on Butterfield’s Jobs and Justice Tour, which is also planned for Durham, Greenville and Windsor.
Butterfield, who lives in Wilson, talked about how he has a strong relationship with people and officials in Rocky Mount. He expressed his satisfaction about the progress Rocky Mount has made over the years and the promising future in front of the city.
“Rocky Mount has realized that it is a correlation between diversity, equal opportunity and economic empowerment,” Butterfield said. “By the citizens of this community electing several African-Americans to the City Council and now the City Council unanimously electing another African-American city manager speaks volumes. Rocky Mount has thoughtful leaders, unlike other communities, who want to go forward and don’t want to maintain the status quo.
“Rocky Mount is an example of a city that can shine and will shine in Eastern North Carolina.”
Butterfield talked about the urgent need for more jobs to be created and more importantly that those be good paying jobs. He said his plan is to go back to Congress with the idea of pushing legislation to incentivize companies to provide more on-the-job training to strengthen the job skills for current and new employees.
“Globalization and automation is causing a revolution in the economy and we have to adjust to the new 21st economy,” Butterfield said. “Far too many companies have placed their short-term profits above investing in their workers and giving them the tools they need in order to connect more workers to good paying jobs and close the job skill gap. I’m going to reach out to my colleagues or some of the other congressmen and provide a new tax credit to employers or companies to train and hire workers. This initiative will provide a strong economic incentive to invest and train workers from entry level all the way up to management opportunities.”
N.C. Secretary of Transportation James Trogdon, who served on the N.C. Board of Transportation during the restoration of the Rocky Mount Train Station in 2009, was also on hand. He talked about the economic impact of CSX’s Carolina Connector hub being built in the Twin Counties and the important role it will play in growing the regional and state economy. The intermodal hub is slated to start operations in December 2019.
Trogdon said the Department of Transportation recently adopted a new State Transportation Improvement Program plan in which 350 out of 441 road projects will be accelerated projects. He said some of those include local projects consisting of Eastern Avenue, Benvenue Road and Old Carriage Road. The timeline of the projects will take place between the next two to six years, Trogdon added.
Butterfield spoke about the need for more funding to go into infrastructure project. The Department of Transportation has committed to $173 million to maintain Interstate 95 for the next 10 years, but $4.5 million is needed to modernize the highway, Butterfield said, adding that the nation’s overall infrastructure is crumbling
“As much as I disagree with President (Donald) Trump on most things,” he said, “the one thing I do agree with is the absolute need for bold, visionary investment in infrastructure. I unequivocally support a major, bold infrastructure investment at the level of $1 trillion suggested by our president.”
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