This past weekend some 25 to 30 Lincolnton/Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce members gathered for the usual planning ritual at Blowing Rock. They heard updates from some of the top government and institutional leaders of Lincoln county. It was the normal routine, but this year seemed a little different. Everybody had something to brag about. Jerry Cochrane, chairman of the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners, offered his own pat on the back to chamber members gathered for the affair. â€œSomebody had to create this environment,â€ he said
Heâ€™s right. The success now enjoyed by the Lincoln County Economic Development Association, the Lincoln County Schools, the city and the county are rooted in past leadership.
School officials who are usually poor-mouthing about their facilities didnâ€™t have to this year, having benefited from the passage of a $47 million bond issue that will take care of those problems, at least for a couple of years. Instead, Superintendent Jim Watson talked about academic achievements. Lincoln Countyâ€™s 77.1 percent of proficiency in End of Course Testing exceeds the state average of 73.5 percent. Seventeen of Lincoln Countyâ€™s 21 schools met No Child Left Behind standards. The achievements went on and on.
That success didnâ€™t just happen. Back down the road the administration and teaching staff of the schools did some preparatory work.
Chamber leaders also heard upbeat reports from the city and county on steady improvements in our infrastructure. The city of Lincolnton is now completing its new City Hall/fire department project, the Rail Trail and the new Highland Drive Park. Lincoln County is busier than ever, mapping plans for sewer services to the industrial park and water lines to East Lincoln Middle School. The county completed construction of a brand new DSS building, a new EMS station and new branch libraries. We credit the current leadership in the city and county for bringing these projects forward, but earlier boards and councils provided the groundwork. Certainly, the late Marcia Cloninger can be credited with getting the Rail Trail started while she served on the council.
Upbeat reports at the planning retreat also came from Lincoln Medical Center, which has gradually shown a major profit growth. It wasnâ€™t that long ago when the hospital was on the verge of going broke. All of the profits are converted to more improvements to the hospital, which is gradually turning into high-tech, modern facility, shaking the small-town image. LMCâ€™s top executive, Pete Acker, can certainly take credit for this progress. But look back five years and credit the governing board for the decisions made to bring it about.
Economic Development has never look so good as announcements keep coming on major new industries establishing a base of operations in the industrial park.. LEDA Director Barry Matherly is at the helm and can take the bows for $80 million in investments that created 700 new jobs. But he will be the first to tell you the time line for developing that park began in 1995, long before he took his job here.
Even in the face of a sour economy, industry shutdowns and all the expensive growth pains, Lincoln County is prospering. To all of the leaders who had a role in bringing these successes, thanks for creating the environment.