Gaston Business Association meets with leaders to discuss priorities

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A key role of the Gaston Business Association is to serve as an advocate for local business and industry to elected officials.

“We want to help them help us,” Association President Patrick Mumford said at a breakfast on Thursday at Gaston College’s Kimbrell campus in Belmont.

In attendance were not only several dozen members of the Gaston Business Association, but also elected officials from the state legislature, county board of commissioners and county school board.

Mumford then unveiled the Gaston Business Association‘s current legislative priorities. They understand :

  • Approval and financing of the Catawba Crossings bridge project.
  • Adoption of a new transportation funding model in North Carolina that encourages comprehensive mobility solutions.
  • Support for the development of quality throughout the Gaston department.
  • Investment in the development of high-speed internet throughout Gaston County.
  • Funding child care resources to meet workforce needs
  • Investment in vocational and technical education and apprenticeship programs to strengthen the talent pool.

The elected officials, primarily from the eastern half of Gaston County, then reviewed their efforts to improve the business climate in Gaston County and around the state.

Senator Ted Alexander

Senator Ted Alexander

Alexander noted his belief that government “works best when it steps aside and lets (business and industry) do the right thing.”

Alexander said the General Assembly had, in recent sessions, worked to reduce personal income tax, reduce regulations, increase the standard income tax deduction and stop taxing military retirement benefits.

The General Assembly realizes, he added, that it must keep state employee salaries competitive and invest money in things that improve the quality of life such as roads, recreation, water and sewer, and local fire departments.

Representative John Torbett

Rep.  John Torbett, R-Gaston

Torbett, who has served in the Legislative Assembly since 2011, reminded listeners of the financial crisis facing the state following the Great Recession of 2008-09.

Through careful planning, he said, the state has found a way out of this crisis and back to fiscal stability.

Like Alexander, Torbett spoke of his efforts to reduce unnecessary and redundant government regulations and make business in North Carolina more efficient.

Looking ahead, Torbett said, “We’ve learned that we need to be more economically diverse. We can’t afford to put all our eggs in one basket, like textiles or furniture.”

Representative Donnie Loftis

Donnie Loftis

Loftis, who was appointed to the State House last fall to fill the unexpired term of the late Dana Bumgardner, said the position of county commissioner prepared him well for his duties in Raleigh.

Loftis cited transportation and health care as two critical issues facing the state over the next two decades.

Loftis questioned whether the state could afford to have one-third of its residents on Medicaid and said improving freeway access is paramount to Gaston County’s continued growth.

Commissioner Chad Brown

Chad Brown speaks during the dedication ceremony for the Lighthouse Children's Advocacy Center on City Church Street on Thursday morning, July 22, 2021.

Brown, who represents Riverbend Township on the county council, said cooperation between local governments is essential.

“We cooperate with our school board on a host of issues,” he said, adding that the county is working to streamline the steps a new business must take to establish itself here.

“Economic development is thriving in Gaston County,” he concluded.

Commissioner Ronnie Worley

Ronnie Worley

Worley echoed Brown’s thoughts on cooperation and streamlining the business process.

“We’re working to remove unnecessary restrictions and make it more of a ‘one stop shop’ where a business owner can take care of everything at once,” he said.

Noting that he has held elected office for more than 15 years, Worley said it was high time to build another bridge over the Catawba River connecting Gaston and Mecklenburg counties.

School Board President Jeff Ramsey

Jeff Ramsey, President

Ramsey spoke of the tremendous strides the school system has made in providing more vocational and technical education choices to local students and their parents.

“We work to ensure that every student in Gaston County is ready for a career or further education,” Ramsey said.

School Board Member Justin Davis

Justin Davis

Like Ramsey, Davis spoke about the importance of vocational education and the school choice program that allows students and parents to choose their school based on their college and career expectations.

“We’ve established pathways that lead from elementary to middle school to high school,” Davis said.

“We want young people who are ready for employment,” he added. “We want young people who are ready to go to college or enter health care.”

Bill Poteat can be reached at 704-869-1855 or bpoteat@gastongazette.com.

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