Moore County March 2021


County Seat

Median Income

Population Density Designation

Our time in Moore County centered on a visit to Sandhills Community College. The president of the college, John Dempsey, welcomed us and introduced us to his guests, including Rep. Jamie Boles (R), and Sen. Tom McInnis (R), both of whom represent Moore County in the General Assembly. We also met Mickey Foster, CEO of FirstHealth of the Carolinas, and Charles Gregg, CEO of Pinehurst Surgical Clinic.

Moore is a rural county in the central part of the state with a growing population just above 101,000 residents. Parts of the county, such as the village of Pinehurst, are quite affluent, but the overall poverty rate is still 11.3%, just one point lower than the national average of 12.3%. As Dempsey described it, “Our community combines the wealth of the 20th century economy with the challenges of the 21st century.”

Michelle Bauer, Dean of Continuing Education and Workforce Development Programs at Sandhills, emphasized the school’s role in the lives of Moore and Hoke County residents: “There are many people in our area who are economically disadvantaged for whom we are the bridge to economic well-being.”

Jobs in the health care field can be an essential part of this upward mobility. Mickey Foster said he hired 106 new nursing graduates last year, mostly from community colleges. Despite that hiring, he said of his hospital, “Our biggest challenge is nursing, just like everywhere else in the world.”

From there, the discussion expanded to the general challenge of access to educational opportunities. For students who graduate from community college, affordability can be a barrier to continuing their education, including the pursuit of advanced nursing degrees.

To that end, President Dempsey presented the Sandhills Promise program as one way to help cost-burdened students advance their education. Sandhills Promise guarantees that Moore and Hoke County residents who graduate from high school having completed four dual-enrollment courses at Sandhills will pay no tuition at the college for the two years immediately following high school graduation. The school’s foundation funds the program because, as Dempsey put it, “We don’t want any students ever to graduate with student debt.”

On a quick tour through campus, we stopped at a construction site that will be the new home of the Sandhills nursing school. In 2018, voters approved a bond measure that is helping to cover the cost of building the 36,000-square-foot center. The construction of Foundation Hall, combined with renovations of Kennedy Hall—the existing nursing building—will enable Sandhills Community College to increase the number of nursing graduates by 50%.

We ended our visit at the Bradshaw Center for the Performing Arts, which is part of the Sandhills campus. The Center has become a popular destination for internationally known performers and local audiences alike. President Dempsey explained, “At Sandhills Community College, our middle name is ‘Community,’ so we take the needs of this community seriously.”

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, 12/22