Johnston County July 2022

Population
206,016

County Seat
Smithfield

Median Income
$59,865

Population Density Designation
Regional City/Suburban

Our visit to Johnston County began in the Johnston Community College (JCC) boardroom. JCC president Ken Boham welcomed us to the college while our team enjoyed BBQ from local restaurant White Swan.

Boham’s introduction to the college included his sharing historical context on the development of the North Carolina Community College system. He explained how Dallas Herring, a business and education leader from eastern North Carolina, worked alongside numerous elected leaders to bring about a statewide system of technical education. Boham shared Herring’s vision of a comprehensive community college system that would provide an educational opportunity for all North Carolinians within a thirty-mile radius of their home.

“Herring’s vision was simple — he viewed community colleges as a vital resource to take people from where they are to where they want to go,” said Boham.

We were joined by numerous community leaders across government, business, education and health care. Butch Lawter, the Chairman of the Johnston County Commissioners, and Chris Johnson, the head of economic development for the county, were among the first to speak. Speaking of their vision for the county, Lawter shared, “We are working to build a county where people live here, work here, raise their family here and see opportunities to continue to do that moving forward. We do not want to only be a county where people live here and commute to work elsewhere.”

Lawter, Johnson and business leaders went on to describe the importance of both the K–12 system and the community college in sparking opportunity for Johnston County. Johnson told us that any business being recruited asks about the quality of the health care and education employees can expect for themselves and their families.

“Our name says it all,” noted Boham. “Our institution, and the other 57 just like us, have ‘community’ in our name because we’ve been charged to serve and move our communities forward.”

Another asset for Johnston County according to county leaders is proximity to major interstates and the Research Triangle Park region. The county also benefits from investments in creating additional workforce housing.

We heard from Tommy Williams, the CEO of UNC Health Johnston, who walked us through the ongoing challenge of a hospital that needs to grow its workforce in order to serve a rapidly growing population – while also working to control costs and retain health care workers. Williams celebrated the role of JCC by referring to the college as the hospital’s “lifeline in moments of need.”

The importance of the education system for developing the workforce was echoed by Josh Thompson, a leader in Human Resources with Novo Nordisk, who pointed out that his company makes large investments in the region due to the quality of the workforce and the potential for continued growth. The value of workforce development is so high that Novo Nordisk collaborates with its competitors when it comes to funding and supporting the expansion of the community college’s workforce development efforts.

Our community conversation came to a close with Blue Cross NC President and CEO Dr. Tunde Sotunde explaining the purpose for the Extra Miles Tour and encouraging the community participants to continue the conversation. Sotunde shared, “As a company, we cannot just live in a major city in our headquarters and act like we represent North Carolina. We have to represent our entire state — and that begins with being in conversation with our entire state about the needs of – and opportunities for – our local communities.”

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, 9/22