An open letter to Governor-elect Perdue

by Ogi Overman

An open letter to Governor-elect Perdue

Dear Governorelect Perdue:

First of all, thank you for taking the time to participate in the economic roundtable at Guilford Technical Community College last Friday, Dec. 5. I thought the assembled business leaders represented an accurate crosssection of the region and voiced their concerns with eloquence and passion. Dr. Cameron and his colleagues at GTCC are to be commended for facilitating this much-needed discussion, as are you for taking the reins of leadership in attempting to solve the state’s myriad economic problems. As one of the media reps in attendance, I was impressed with your depth of knowledge on the various issues and your level of commitment to finding answers to the enormous challenges facing our great state. I was quite encouraged by your repeated calls for tangible solutions from the panel and your willingness to foster an ongoing dialogue between your office and those in a position to influence the business climate in North Carolina. As you noticed, however, there were more questions than answers to your continual requests for concrete examples of things that could be done to stimulate the economy, create jobs and better educate the workforce. Most of all, I was delighted by your final comments regarding your desire to make North Carolina a leader in the green energy movement and all its manifestations. By pursuing a green economy we are, as you know, taking steps toward solving the dual problems of job creation and environmental protection. Also, I was heartened by Presidentelect Obama’s statement on Sunday’s “Meet The Press” that his meeting with the nation’s governors last week revealed plans for public works projects in virtually every state, projects that were “shovel ready.” While I have no idea what specific projects may be on your agenda, since you did ask for feedback, may I offer a potential project here in the Triad that dovetails perfectly with all the above criteria. No doubt you are aware of the nascent plans being formulated for a massive project dubbed “Heart of the Triad.” The project — 18,000 acres straddling the Guilford- Forsyth county line west of PTI Airport — has created more controversy than consensus in that it strikes many as using eminent domain for economic development purposes. Many residents of the tiny community of Colfax have legitimate fears that their identity will be wiped out once HOT becomes a reality. Also, specific plans for the end uses of the land have never been explained to many observers’ satisfaction. While on the one hand it seems to make sense to develop the area to take advantage of the proximity of the FedEx hub, GTCC’s planned northwest campus and all the

jobs that are sure tobe created involving transportation logistics and aeronautics; on theother, the notion that the land could end up as a playground forhigh-income retirees rubs many the wrong way, myself included. Butputting all those issues aside, there is one end use for this long-termproject that should satisfy all parties involved and overcome nearlyevery objection. Why not turn this ideally situated area into theworld’s hub for alternative, renewable, sustainable energy research,development and manufacturing? Why not take a page out of the ResearchTriangle Park playbook and transform this project into the preferredhome for R&D into wind, solar, geothermal, steam, hydrogen,biomass, oceanic and as-yet undiscovered energy sources? Why not makethis still-relatively rural land the model for eco-friendliness,landowners’ rights and environmental protection by mandating that ahigh percentage of the land be protected as a watershed, preserved ashistorically significant and be utilized for intensive organic farmingand responsible agribusiness? The one thing you said that should strikea chord among us all was that being proenvironment and pro-growth neednot be at cross-purposes, and the greening of the Heart of the Triadcan be the proof in the pudding. As we transition out of apetroleum-based economy and into a sustainable, eco-driven way of life,this can be the engine that powers the movement. The growthindustry for the next 30 years is clearly going to be green related,and this is our chance to position ourselves on the vanguard. Obviously,none of this will happen without our “priming the pump” with someincentives and capital infusion in order to lure these growthindustries here. But with all the plusses this area and this statealready have in their favor — quality-oflife factors; proximity toroads, rail and air transport; an available and trainable workforce;nearby colleges and universities; recreational and leisure pursuits;excellent climate, etc. — all it lacks is bold, imaginative, creative,fearless leadership.

And, at the risk of obsequiousness, I honestly believe that you are the person who can provide that leadership. Iurge you, Governor-elect Perdue, to seriously consider this proposal.If our newly elected leader at the federal level is unafraid to “gobig,” why should we at the state and local levels be afraid to dolikewise? Warmest regards, Ogi Overman Columnist, YES! Weekly Editor, Jamestown News

Ogi may be reached at ogiman100@ and seen on “Triad Today” hosted by Jim Longworth on ABC 45 at 6:30 a.m. Fridays and on WMYV 48 at 10 p.m. Sundays.