Alamance County’s commissioners have agreed to give some thought to a state level plan that seeks to restructure the way that North Carolina distributes federal funds to increase employment and encourage corporate investment.
The commissioners formally scheduled a hearing on this so-called workforce “realignment” last week after they learned about the proposal’s particulars from Chet Mottershead, who serves as the assistant secretary for “workforce solutions” at the N.C. Department of Commerce.
During his appearance before the commissioners, Mottershead explained that the gist of his agency’s plan is to consolidate the 22 workforce development boards that currently administer the federally-subsidized programs which train and employ the state’s workers.
Mottershead said that this sort of streamlining would bring these boards in line with the state’s economic development’s efforts – and, in particular, align them with the eight so-called economic prosperity zones that exist across North Carolina. He added that the discrepancies which currently exist in these conflicting jurisdictions increase the overall cost of administration and may also prevent some localities from securing their fair share of the state’s workforce development funds.
“Our goal here is to fix the map,” he added, “to make sure that resources for economic development and workforce development are pushed out [effectively] and cleaner administratively.”
Mottershead informed the commissioners that Alamance County’s own annual allotment for workforce development slipped from $784,378 to $774,084 over the past year. Jenni Harris, one of Mottershead’s colleagues from the Commerce Department, added that these funds are currently used to recruit and train workers to fill jobs that area employers actually need.
Mottershead went on to ask the commissioners for a formal agreement that they’ll pull out of their current five-county workforce development board and join a larger, 11-county body that the Commerce Department has proposed for the whole Piedmont Triad.
In response to Mottershead’s pitch, commissioner Craig Turner floated the contrary notion that Alamance County may actually be better off if it bucks the consolidation trend and sets up its own, independent workforce development board.
Mottershead insisted this strategy would send administrative costs “through the roof” and could limit the county’s access to prospective employers – arguments that Turner went on to proclaim had “sold” him on the Commerce Department’s proposal.
The commissioners went on to schedule a public hearing on Mottershead’s request for their next regularly-scheduled meeting on September 6.
In the meantime, John Paisley, Jr., the chairman of Alamance County’s commissioners, urged each of his colleagues to individually consult Algie Gatewood, the president of Alamance Community College, about the state’s consolidation proposal.
Although Gatewood had publicly espoused his neutrality that evening, Paisley hinted that his own conversations with the college’s president suggest that he may have something different to say if the commissioners were to feel him out privately.