Wilson County July 2022

Population
82,781

County Seat
Wilson

Median Income
$43,877

Population Density Designation
Rural

Our visit to Wilson County began at the Lee Technology Center. The Lee Center is part of Wilson Community College (WCC) and sits on the site of a former Ford dealership. The site was donated to the college by a civically minded family that believed in the value of educating the future workforce of Wilson County.

With over 80,000 residents, Wilson county sits just east of the Research Triangle area – and its population has diversified in recent years.

WCC began life as the Wilson Industrial Education Center in 1958 — before transitioning to a comprehensive community college as the North Carolina Community College system came together. WCC president Tim Wright opened our conversation over a hearty breakfast of local sausage biscuits. Wright shared, “Our college is one of seven early community colleges that were industrial education centers – and we are one of two that are on their original campus.”

Rob Holsten, the Vice President of Academic Affairs for the college, noted that the college touches the entire educational continuum across Wilson County ranging from providing early childhood educators to college transfer to “second chances for all kinds of folks who have experienced life happening.”

Wright went on to state that while Wilson is a fairly small county in geographic size, the county has benefitted from being close to growing population centers, including Greenville, Fayetteville and the Research Triangle Park region.

Wilson is also served by local philanthropic organizations including the Healthcare Foundation of Wilson. Denise O’Hara, the Executive Director for the Foundation, joined us to share more about the investments the Foundation has made in recent years – including a recent investment to ensure that each K–12 school has a medical clinic and nurse on hand.

The Foundation is also among the lead investors in a collaborative impact effort named Wilson Forward. Wilson Forward is designed to bolster collaboration in health care, workforce development and education. One of their signature products is a new Downtown Wilson YMCA complex that offers a wide array of services including an afterschool program aimed at serving middle schoolers.

The collaborations across the county have made significant strides on tackling consistent challenges – including transportation. O’Hara and Holston went on to share that the city has recently launched on-demand public transit to combine the ease of Uber with the very real demands of trying to provide mass transit in a rural community.

How did they get it done?

“We’re a ‘pick-up-the-phone-and-get-it-done’ community,” replied Holston with a smile.

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