In this week’s newsletter I want to talk to you about the groundbreaking on a project to expand HWY 401 that I attended recently.
I also wanted to highlight one of the speakers from that event, Brigadier General Jim Trogden. In addition to talking about the General, I also wanted to touch on two other National Guard related issues; Waste Industries and how they support our troops, and Tarheel ChalleNGe Academy and the Legislature’s proposal to expand it.
Earlier this month I had the pleasure of speaking at a most important event for the future of our District, the groundbreaking of the widening project for Hwy 401.
This is the first stage of a four stage process to widen Hwy 401. The widening will eventually expand Hwy 401 from two lanes to four lanes on an eleven mile stretch from Northernmost Wake County into Franklin County, culminating in Louisburg. In addition to improving the safety of this dangerous stretch of highway, the project will also infuse the area with much needed resources. It has been estimated that the project could potentially add 4,400 jobs to the area. This area is one of the poorest in the state, making an infusion of jobs and capital that much more important and potent.
Many businesses in and around Franklin County have expressed an interest in opening up along this corridor of NC 401, but have refused to do so until the highway is expanded. In particular, Franklin County’s new industrial hub site, known as Triangle North, has the potential to lure 3,000 jobs to the area but many of the potential tenants have indicated they will not utilize the industrial park until it is served by a four-lane highway. The lack of four-lane access was a critical problem holding back development of the new industrial park.
The economic impact to the local governments in the area is also potentially substantial. A similar expansion of US Highway 1 in Franklin County increased property values ten fold. A similar increase along NC 401 would raise property tax revenue as well, lessening the financial burden placed on our local governments due to the current recession.
At the Groundbreaking ceremony, I had the pleasure of meeting a very special North Carolina Citizen that I wanted to heap a little praise upon.
BRIGADIER GENERAL JIM TROGDEN
The keynote speaker at the groundbreaking celebration was Jim Trogden, the Chief Operating Officer for the North Carolina Department of Transportation and a registered Professional Engineer in North Carolina. Prior to his selection as Chief Operating Officer for DOT, Mr. Trogden was the director of strategic transportation planning for the NC General Assembly, serving as staff advisor to the Joint Legislative Transportation Oversight Committee, Senate and House Transportation Appropriations Committees, and the 21st Century Transportation Committee.
Mr. Trogden previously served 15 years with the NCDOT as a pavement engineer, assistant state road maintenance engineer, and division maintenance engineer culminating as the Division Engineer in the 4th highway division located in Wilson. But even more impressive than his work with NCDOT is Mr. Trogden’s stature as a Brigadier General in the North Carolina National Guard. Mr. Trogdon is currently the Assistant Adjutant General of the NCNG. He has served at all levels within the army from platoon leader, company commander, operations officer, battalion commander, and brigade level command over the last 26 years, performing engineer missions in more than 10 countries.
General Trogden is a shining example of the type of citizen-soldier the National Guard strives to mold. He is incredibly successful both in his civilian and his military career, and the commitment he has made to our country and our state are of the utmost nobility. As fate would have it I attended another event with General Trogden, an event to celebrate the efforts of Waste Industries in support of our troops.
WASTE INDUSTRIES EVENT
Last week Waste Industries was recognized at an event co-sponsored by The Department of Defense and the NC Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR). Waste Industries was presented with the Five Star Statement of Support by General Trogden, and that Statement was duly signed by Waste Industries CEO Ven Poole. By signing the Statement of Support, Mr. Poole and Waste Industries pledged to continue a long-standing tradition of support for military employees and their families.
“Throughout our 40-year history, we’ve maintained an acute respect for our women and men in uniform and those closest to them. Our employees who are members of the Armed Forces are building their careers at Waste Industries while serving our country during difficult and dangerous times,” said Mr. Poole. “It’s a lot to take on, and we’re humbled by their steadfast dedication to our country and to our organization.”
Waste Industries provides its National Guard and Reserve soldiers and their families with full medical benefits and pay differential while serving on active duty for up to one year. Soldiers also continue to accumulate vacation time at Waste Industries while conducting active-duty military service. Care packages and letters from fellow coworkers help keep those soldiers connected with Waste Industries while they’re away. Back home, the company monitors deployments of its employees and posts letters, bios and other relevant information that helps local employees stay connected with their colleagues serving in the Armed Forces.
Waste Industries goes above and beyond what is required of them to support our troops. These actions taken by this large company exemplify the type of support our troops should always receive. They have volunteered to fight for our country and defend our way of life. They undertake a job that could result in the ultimate sacrifice. I don’t think it is too much to ask that their employers support our soldiers while our soldiers are supporting our country.
Along that same vein, the North Carolina General Assembly is proposing to expand a program that provides a support system for some of our troubled youth in concert with the NC National Guard.
NC TARHEEL CHALLENGE ACADEMY
Since the end of last session I have served on numerous interim committees, designed to study pressing issues facing North Carolina and its citizens. One such committee was the Legislative Study Commission on Poverty Reduction and Economic Recovery. This was a large committee that attempted to tackle a broad array of topics. The committee was broken up into subcommittees, and the subcommittee on which I served researched, and made recommendations on, how to combat Persistent Poverty in our state.
One of the recommendations my subcommittee made was to expand the NC Tarheel ChalleNGe Academy by opening a second academy in the western part of the state. Currently the Academy is located in Salemburg in Eastern North Carolina, and they have reached the maximum number of students per year that they can accommodate.
The academy is a joint Federal and State venture aimed at High School Dropouts ages 16 to 19, and is sponsored in North Carolina by the NC National Guard. It is a quasi-military program that concentrates on providing these young adults with the discipline and life skills necessary to be productive members of society. Even though this is a military sponsored academy, there are no military obligations for attending. Cadets are free to choose military service as one of their options after graduation, but they are not required to do so. The overall goal is not to push these at-need youths into military service, but to instill in them the kind of discipline and sense of responsibility that will lead to positive life choices after graduation.
The NC ChalleNGe Academy is an effective tool at combating persistent poverty. The majority of high school dropouts come from impoverished areas or families. By providing this type of educational setting, specifically designed with dropouts in mind, the Academy is well positioned to break the cycle of poverty that these young men and women would likely be caught in otherwise.
Because of this, my subcommittee is in support of expanding the program, opening it up to additional students. Currently, the Academy in Salemburg graduates 250 students per year. The second academy site in Western North Carolina would endeavor to graduate 500 students per year, increasing the number of young people who benefit from this program by 200%. I feel that this would be a worthwhile endeavor that would produce tremendous results, and I will support the expansion during the upcoming session of the General Assembly.
ON A PERSONAL NOTE
As many of you know, my son Justus recently enlisted in the NC Army National Guard. He graduated from Basic Training back in January, and has since returned home and is in the process of completing his degree program at UNC. He recently brought home the UNC Annual and in it was this picture from his basic training. I couldn’t help but share it.
This picture was taken immediately after the soldiers were taught about the importance of their gas masks. The technique used to drive this point home was to require the soldiers to remove their masks while in a gas filled room, and experience the effects to a limited extent. Needless to say Justus did not enjoy this technique, but he did learn the importance of his gas mask.
As always, I look forward to your thoughts and comments on the issues discussed in the newsletter. Please feel free to respond to any issue whether it was covered in the newsletter or not. It is an honor to serve as your State Senator, and I will do everything in my power to live up to that honor.