Randolph County September 2023


County Seat

Median Income

Population Density Designation

When the Extra Miles Tour arrived at The Table in downtown Asheboro, the room was buzzing. The excitement wasn’t just because Toyota had recently announced that it’d be expanding its electric vehicle battery manufacturing facility in the town of Liberty, bringing hundreds of high-paying jobs to the area. The energy had more to do with the shared sense of purpose that helped Randolph County and the surrounding area rewrite its future in the wake of an economic downturn.

Darrell Frye, chair of Randolph County Commissioners, started our discussion by boldly predicting that the new facility would transform the county. Not long ago, things didn’t look quite as bright. Much of the manufacturing base was shrinking or moving overseas. Turning the ship around didn’t happen overnight – and the work isn’t done yet – but community representatives, business leaders and educators realized quickly they needed to work together and think outside the box if the region was to reimagine itself, and operating outside of traditional silos has made a real, palpable difference.

Randolph County Economic Development Director Kevin Franklin explained that the work to reimagine the area’s industry and employment landscape was a regional effort that actually started in Greensboro (in Alamance County) and reached across community boundaries and property lines, because everyone in the Triad and surrounding areas recognized that diminishing economic opportunity was affecting them all. The end result has been a slow but sure economic resurgence.

“Partnership, perseverance and optimism. That’s what it took,” he said.

There are still challenges on the horizon. Just a few weeks ago before Blue Cross NC visited Randolph County, Klaussner Furniture Industries, Inc., closed up shop without warning. 900 workers suddenly found themselves without jobs or benefits. But the county responded quickly. The Chamber of Commerce, Randolph Community College and others rallied quickly to host job fairs to connect those facing unemployment with resources for support.

Throughout the afternoon’s discussion, it was clear that the same collaborative spirit was guiding the county’s work to find solutions to other challenges more directly related to community health and well-being.

Public Health Director Tara Aker shared how the county’s health ranking has slipped in the last five years, with significant increases in the rates of premature deaths and sexually transmitted diseases. Provider shortages are likely one reason why: The county’s provider-to-patient ratio lags well behind the state in several key areas including primary care (2160 to 1), mental health (900 to 1) and dentistry (2790 to 1). What’s one way the county has responded? Recently, it’s partnered with Kintegra to provide a mobile dental clinic to go into schools and deliver care to all children.

Director of Social Services Tracie Murphy focused attention on the needs of the county’s children in foster care. During the pandemic, the county experienced a 50% increase in this population. Currently, there are 210 children in the system, and only 50 foster parents in the county. In addition, these cases (and the families’ needs) have grown increasingly complex, which means a child’s involvement in the system is often longer.
County Wellness Director Sam Varner shared how the county has doubled down on its support for strong mental and physical health among its employees and their families. The services the county provides include:

  • On-site medical clinics break down barriers to preventive care
  • Health coaching builds a long-term culture focused on well-being
  • Six on-site fitness facilities make it easy for employees to exercise
  • Mental health support appears in many forms: Group talks to help pre-empt potential employee issues; one-on-one counseling provides individualized care; faith-based counseling offers a more holistic experience for those who embrace it; and a 24-hour well-being hotline
  • Pet therapy (five therapy dogs even have their own badges!)

The investment in wellness is making a tangible difference. A few years ago, diabetes was the county’s most expensive cost driver. Now it’s dropped out of the top 10. The county’s muscular and joint therapy programs have significantly reduced knee and back problems – another major cost driver. The percentage increase of total claims rests far below what is the norm across other comparable employers.

As members of the Blue Cross NC team joined representatives from so many different spheres of the community, the conversation wasn’t just about resiliency. It embodied the “best practice” that is fundamental to any community’s resiliency: Bringing stakeholders around the table and fostering conversation that reaches across sectors, from one community to the next and beyond county lines. That’s how problems are solved and forward momentum is achieved.

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U39702, 10/23