Up & Coming Weekly

December 11, 2018

Up and Coming Weekly is a weekly publication in Fayetteville, NC and Fort Bragg, NC area offering local news, views, arts, entertainment and community event and business information.

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Page 5 of 32

WWW.UPANDCOMINGWEEKLY.COM DECEMBER 12-18, 2018 UCW 5 MARGARET DICKSON, Columnist. COMMENTS? Editor@ upandcomingweekly.com. 910-484-6200. A tale of two North Carolinas by MARGARET DICKSON OPINION News arrived last week that Cumberland County has slipped into Tier 1 status in North Caro- lina's rankings of counties' eco- nomic health. Cumberland joins 39 other counties as among our state's most economically dis- tressed, sometimes referred to as "low wealth" — the 20th most distressed to be exact. Joining us in the lowest economic designa- tion are our neighbors Hoke, Robeson, Scotland, Sampson, Duplin and Richmond, as well as others scattered in mostly rural areas across the state. State and local officials tried to dress up the designation by saying it came because the state adjusted the method for calcu- lating rankings. ey correctly promoted that Tier 1 status makes Cumberland eligible for more state grants and individual companies eligible for additional incen- tives for bringing new jobs. In other words, Tier 1 designations come with perks. Make no mistake, though. is is not good news. Tier 1 is a marker of economic distress, and Cumberland County qualifies. It is the only county among North Carolina's 10 most populous to have Tier 1 status. e nine other most populous counties hold Tier 2 or 3 designations, the more and the most economically blessed. One can find statistics to sup- port most any assertion, and here are a few from the North Carolina Budget and Tax Center. More than 51 percent of local renters cannot afford their rent. More than 41 percent of residents are low income, and more than 12 percent have no health insurance. ere are plenty more statistics, some negative and some positive. All of this is part of a much larger picture of North Carolina and many other states — a profound and growing rural-urban divide. North Carolina's booming urban areas, notably Charlotte and the Triangle, have little in common with our rural areas. ey have edu- cated and well-paid workforces, access to technology, enviable school systems, world-class health care and, not surprisingly, rapidly growing populations. Rural areas, on the other hand, struggle to provide education, lack wide access to technology, see hos- pitals closing, and watch their young people move to urban areas for jobs and city amenities. A shorthand way of expressing this is that in a state of 100 counties, roughly 85 percent of the people live in 15 counties, and 15 percent of the people live in 85 counties. at said, our rural population is still larger than that of any other state except Texas. Cumberland is a county with a foot in each camp. On the one hand, we are populous, with cultural influences from many nations. Our economy has historically been somewhat insulated from down- turns by the steady military presence. But we are less educated than our other urban sisters and brothers and have lower incomes. Our population is transient, affecting many areas of community life, including education. Much angst exists about the rural/urban divide, with conversations ongoing in both public and private sectors. How do we nurture the prosperity of our urban areas and handle the issues stemming from rapid growth but at the same time help our rural areas access the technology their residents require for both education and business? Cumberland County's Tier 1 ranking is dishearten- ing, but the good news is that with our urban center, we have more to work with than do many other North Carolina counties. ere are excellent schools within our public system, and Fayetteville Technical Community College offers education and training at affordable rates. e military brings expertise in many areas, some of which can be translated into the private sector. We are proof of not only the rural-urban divide but of the rural-urban in- terconnection. Both exist within our county's boundar- ies and can help each other through partnerships of all sorts, including agriculture and technology, which are increasingly intertwined. ink farm-to-table and ways to make that possible in both stores and restaurants. We must also reach deep within our community for innovative and thoughtful leaders, people who under- stand the divide and are willing to experiment with bridging it. We must recognize that leaders come from all age groups and ranges of our community. As North Carolina state Sen. Erica Smith, who represents eight rural, mostly struggling counties, told a recent panel on the "two North Carolinas," "We are only as strong as our weakest community." Cumberland County is a Tier 1, or low wealth, county. Photo credit:www.nccommerce.com/grants-incentives/county-distress-rankings-tiers one year special $ 15 for UP & CoMING WEEKLY rEadErs oNLY you save 89% off Tv GuIDe MaGaZINe Get A GreAt DeAL from tV GuiDe mAGAzine start Your subscription online, By Mail or Call online: tvguidemagazine.com/newsoffer mail: complete order form below call: 1-800-365-1940 WHeN CaLLING use PRoMo: K6fNsWPZZ Every issue delivers inside scoop on your favorite shows Breaking news keeps you in the know Highlights help guide you to what's worth watching Your favorite stars take you behind the scenes 28 Pages of easy-to-use primetime listings GrEaT rEasoNs To sTarT YoUr sUBsCrIPTIoN

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