Elon University addressed economic growth and community relations in Alamance County by hosting a panel of business and infrastructure experts. Each discussed a variety of topics concerning the expansion of the county, transportation accessibility, and how small businesses can better interact in the county.
Panelists at the event came from a wide variety of occupations, and provided interesting background on the issues that were brought up. All the panelists believed that community inclusivity is vital for developing Alamance county into a destination for tourists and new families.
Peter Bishop, the economic development director for the City of Burlington and panelist at the event, stressed the importance of jobs in the county that provide room for obtaining more skills while employed.
"The portrait of it to me is economic upward mobility," Bishop said about economic development.
He said more jobs in the area allow workers to obtain more skills that can better the community with more economic activity.
Branching off that point was panelist Shelby Scales, the North Carolina Department of Transportation Office of Civil Rights director. She addressed the necessity of embracing the influx of diversity in businesses that the Alamance area has seen recently.
With this new growth, infrastructure is a growing concern, according to the panel. Because of the county's position between the triad and the research triangle, new families are looking to take advantage of this growth.
County government is turning to the community for perspectives on what transportation should look like, Scales said.
"You have to start thinking about smart technologies," Scales said. "You have to think about the environment, what type of buses you want."
With new people settling in the area, Jennifer Talley a Graham business owner, brought up the need for an expansion of affordable developmental housing. She said this is an issue that the county has struggled with because of a shortage of contractors willing to undertake expensive projects.
"There's a lot of new people that are coming that's creating a better community here for the triangle," Talley said. "Obviously you have to have the availability of space to grow your community and Graham struggles with that."
The panelists noted the potential for growth and economic prosperity that the Alamance community has been exposed to, but said that to harness this growth will require a strong community push toward a better future.