Vance County May 2022

Population
45,392

County Seat
Henderson

Median Income
$40,529

Population Density Designation
Rural

As we pulled up to the Center for Innovation in Vance County, we could hear the sound of music drifting out from the building as a middle school band practiced for an upcoming concert. The Center for Innovation is a shared campus designed to provide opportunities for learning for students, educators and even the community as Vance County works to reimagine educational and career opportunities for its residents.

Representatives from Vance County Schools and Vance-Granville Community College (VGCC), leaders from area nonprofits and the city manager for Henderson greeted us.

The opening conversation focused on the work of the county to transition its economy from what VGCC president Dr. Rachel Desmarais referred to as, “small farms, textiles and tobacco,” to a diverse economy that can thrive as we progress through the 21st century. Desmarais noted that VGCC sees itself as a “community convenor, catalyst and workforce developer.”

Henderson City Manager Terrell Blackmon walked us through the work being conducted in Henderson to develop vacant lots, introduce additional workforce housing and provide public spaces. Blackmon opened his presentation by declaring, “Our people are our jewel.”

A common theme in Vance County — and many other rural counties we’ve visited — is the lack of available housing stock and access to public transportation.

The conversation around community development continued when Abdul Rasheed of Franklin Vance Warren Opportunity, Inc. joined us to discuss early childhood education, home ownership and other issues related to social mobility in Vance County.

Rasheed discussed the impacts of long-term toxic stress noting, “Poverty and indifference all add up to toxic stress. As we develop solutions, community members must be invested, engaged and involved. And our approaches must be culturally sensitive and responsive.”

Bert Beard, the CEO of Maria Parham Hospital, discussed the challenges for the rural hospital he leads during COVID-19. Beard pointed to the twin challenges of COVID expenses and inflationary expenses. VGCC and Maria Parham are exploring working together to address staffing challenges and the health care workforce by sharing staff.

Blue Cross NC  President and CEO Dr. Tunde Sotunde joined the conversation by pointing out that 87 of North Carolina’s 100 counties lack some access to health care. Sotunde went on to point out that it will take government, industry and communities working together to tackle the challenge to serve all the residents of our state.

We ended our day in Vance County with a walking tour of the Center of Innovation to deepen our understanding of the work being undertaken around K12 education in the county. Cindy Bennett, the Superintendent of Vance County Schools, told us, “We will not be defined by our deficiencies, but by our strengths.”

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, 6/22