CLARK: The rural-urban divide

Aug. 12, 2014 @ 10:39 AM

Rutherford County Manager Carl Classen might not have realized how far-reaching his quote was but after some thought, it echoes wide and true.

Last week, as County Planning Director Danny Searcy was presenting county commissioners with the effects of the state’s transportation rating system, Classen remarked:

“This has been a disaster for rural North Carolina and set us back about two years.”

He was referring to the fact that out of over a dozen projects submitted to the North Carolina Department of Transportation, only the Thermal Belt Rail/Trail project advanced for possible state funding.

That means U.S. 221 work is halted and any hope of starting the expansion of U.S. 74 to Interstate quality is also out the door.

What is telling is the fact that 73 percent of state funding went to the 20 counties that least need it.

I’m sure transportation in Charlotte, Raleigh and Winston-Salem is key but it is becoming more and more evident that if it’s not inside the so-called Piedmont Crescent — Charlotte to Raleigh — it really doesn’t concern the state.

Economic development efforts will likely be geared towards future development in the Piedmont Crescent while areas like Rutherford County will be left in the cold.

Or, at least to our own devices.

This makes the job of Rutherford County Economic Development Director Matt Blackwell that much more difficult.

Now, I believe Blackwell does a fantastic job in attracting new business to the county as well as Mary Taylor’s work to maintain existing business.

However, the state and its funding mechanisms seem more content in spending money in urban areas as opposed to spreading things out a little more evenly. It almost forces Blackwell and Taylor to do their jobs with one hand behind their back.

Granted, the number of votes between Charlotte and Raleigh well outnumber those in the western part of the state. Sounds like the old Eddie Cochran lyrics: “I’d like to help you son, but you’re too young to vote.”

In this case it would be more fitting if the lyric was: “We’d like to help you son, but you don’t have enough votes.”

But, just what is the culprit of this? Who is to blame?

It would be easy to blame the General Assembly because, if there was an easy target for blame, they would be it.

Then there is Gov. Pat McCrory. I think this is a more feasible candidate.

The former Charlotte mayor has touted the new transportation funding strategy and economic development breakup more than any member of the General Assembly.

We may have to come to the realization we are on our own.

The urban-rural divide is growing faster than we ever expected.

 

Matthew Clark is the editor of The Daily Courier. He can be reached at mclark@thedigitalcourier.com. Follow him on Twitter @TDCMatt