Harnett County February 2022

Population
134,906

County Seat
Lillington

Median Income
$53,554

Population Density Designation
Rural

On our tour of Harnett County, we visited Central Carolina Community College. Jon Matthews, Provost of CCCC, gave us a tour of the campus in Lillington.

We met Gary Beasley, a member of the faculty who heads the Laser and Photonics Technology program – the only program of its kind in the state. Beasley and CCCC students led us through several demonstrations. We donned protective eyewear to view a unique process that uses crystals for common medical procedures such as breaking down kidney stones. Students gave us custom name tags that they created using their laser engraver.

The day wrapped up with a panel discussion featuring Dr. Lisa Chapman, President of CCCC; Pat Godwin, Jr., Corporate President, The Godwin Group; Angie Stewart, Harnett County Economic Development; Dr. Aaron Fleming, Superintendent, Harnett County Schools; Cory Hess, President and CEO, Harnett Health; and Senator Jim Burgin, Harnett, Johnston and Lee Counties.

The panel discussed issues faced in local healthcare and workforce development. Hess noted that the county population is expected to double in the next five years and the system faces shortages of healthcare providers. For example, nurses in rural areas such as Harnett County can quadruple or quintuple their income by working on contract as travel nurses. This decreases the availability of local nursing staff, forcing rural hospitals to compete with larger urban hospitals to fill staffing gaps.

Some local businesses are feeling their own hiring pinch. Pat Godwin, Jr. started his welding company in his backyard, and it is now the largest family-owned truck equipment manufacturer in the U.S. He discussed the supply chain issues his company has faced, as well as the lack of manufacturing employees that keep his company from growing. Demand from his clients could allow for him to double his operation, but the talent isn’t there – yet. Godwin sees expanding Career and Technical Education programs in schools as one way to build a pipeline to careers in Harnett County.

Lisa Chapman, Angie Stewart, and Aaron Fleming all noted that the education system in Harnett County is key to solving the skills mismatch between residents and local employers. One tactic the panel returned to again and again was encouraging students to pursue vocational programs, both in public schools and at the community college.

Senator Jim Burgin highlighted the important role of community colleges in his district, especially now as we all continue to tackle the far-reaching effects of the pandemic.

Meet Dr. Algie Gatewood

Dr. Algie Gatewood is only the fourth President to lead Alamance Community College (ACC) since it opened in 1958. During Dr. Gatewood’s tenure at ACC, the college won its largest ever bond referendum – nearly $40 million – in 2018 to fund a number of major capital projects and expansions. The college also secured $16 million in county funding in 2014 to build the Advanced Applied Technology Center. Other notable accomplishments include creating a Biotechnology Center of Excellence, introducing an Early College, facilitating an apprenticeship program, and introducing nearly two dozen new academic programs and articulation agreements with state universities.

U39702, 3/22