Rockingham County October 2022


County Seat

Median Income

Population Density Designation

Our visit to Rockingham County began at Rockingham Community College (RCC). Rockingham County has a population of just over 91,000 as of the last census.

Leigh Cockram, the Director of Economic Development and Tourism for Rockingham County, opened up our conversation by noting the proximity to both Virginia and Greensboro has allowed Rockingham County to become a county of growth. Cockram noted the county has approved 3,000 new home sites in recent years.

Cockram pointed to several promising statistics related to the growth in economic activity in the county including a seven percent increase in wages, an average starting wage in the county of $15 and 1,400 new jobs coming from recent economic development announcements.

The challenges facing the county in terms of continued economic growth, according to Cockram, include a lack of industry-ready sites for major companies, the availability of workforce and what she described as “misguided perceptions of rural.” Cockram went on to say Rockingham County should best be considered “rural-ish” due to proximity to Greensboro and access to interstates.

The conversation moved on to the challenges facing all residents in the county. Issues identified included affordable housing, transportation and a lack of broadband access. RCC president Mark Kinlaw shared that during COVID-19, the college surveyed students and found that 70 percent of respondents didn’t have reliable internet access.

Kinlaw has served as president of the college since 2014. He referred to COVID-19 as not just a health challenge, but also a “catastrophe” for higher education. Kinlaw noted, “Catastrophic is the word I would use for the impact of COVID on education.” The impacts have been most profoundly felt on overall enrollment for higher education institutions, as well as remediation for enrolling students and retaining current students.

One bright spot for RCC and Rockingham County has been interest and enrollment in health care-related programs. Vickie Chitwood, the Dean of Health Sciences and Public Service Technologies, opened our tour of the school’s simulated hospital by pointing out that the college has seen a 28 percent increase in enrollment for its health care programs.

We visited each room in the simulated hospital, and we had a chance to interact with both students and faculty during the tour. Representatives from both Annie Penn Hospital and UNC Rockingham Health Care were present as well.

The increases in enrollment are important for the long-term pipeline for both hospitals given the challenges around the health care workforce. Representatives from both hospitals pointed to difficulties recruiting talent due to a lack of affordable and accessible housing, the need to work with nursing agencies to fill necessary nursing roles at the hospital and shortages among other essential support roles.

Kinlaw posed the question to the group: “We always ask what would rural areas be without community colleges?”

The importance of community colleges is clear for health care in Rockingham County.

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.

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U39702, 1/23