Thursday, December 1, 2022

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Commissioners object to state-level plan to reorganize workforce development boards

Alamance County’s governing board has raised a formal protest against a state-level plan to consolidate the 23 workforce development boards that oversee worker recruitment and training across North Carolina.

During a regularly-scheduled meeting on Monday, the county’s board of commissioners passed a resolution in opposition to this plan, which the N.C. Commerce Department has floated in order to create larger workforce development areas that coincide with federal prosperity zones.

But unlike most of the statements that the county’s leaders make about state-level gambits, their denunciations of the Commerce Department’s proposal may actually be something more than a symbolic fist shaken against the sky.

The commissioners ultimately signed off on this resolution at the behest of Tammy Wall, who serves as the workforce development director for Alamance, Montgomery, Moore, Orange, and Randolph counties.

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Wall told the commissioners that, if the Commerce Department gets its way, this five-county consortium will be broken up in order to create much larger workforce development zones.

She warned that this proposed change would drown out the voices of smaller counties and reduce the number of private sector representatives who are able to serve on the state’s workforce development boards.

“Local control equals local decisions which equal local solutions,” Wall went on to assure the commissioners, “and this cannot happen in a prosperity zone or mega-region.”

Wall’s preference for status quo was echoed by Reed LaPlante, the current chairman of the Alamance Chamber of Commerce, as well as Algie Gatewood, the president of Alamance Community College. Gatewood insisted that the existing workforce development model has worked well for him and his colleagues within the community college system.

Reed LaPlante, current chairman of the Alamance County Area Chamber of Commerce

“I don’t want to knock what is proposed,” ACC’s president added. “But I want to support what we have…It’s been like a hand in a glove – a really good fit.”

Yet, perhaps the most compelling argument in favor of the resolution came from ACC’s executive vice president, Connie Wolfe, who informed the commissioners that their resolution could have a genuine impact on the consolidation process.

“As I understand it,” she told the county’s governing board, “the governor can make no changes without your support.”

In the end, the commissioners needed no further encouragement to sign their names to the proposed resolution. The prevailing mood of the group was perhaps best summed up by its chairman, John Paisley, Jr., immediately before the unanimous vote in support of the statement.

“Right now as I understand it we are the big fish in the pond,” Paisley told his fellow commissioners. “But if we go to this…we will be the little fish in the ocean.”

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