I confess: I am about to give you the fourth speech I have written for today. As humbling as it is to admit, I procrastinated. I knew, since February, that I would be speaking today,and yet I stalled…until it was almost too late.
You see, part of my excuse is that I’ve been spending a lot of time lately, both as Mayor, and also as Chair of the Metro Mayors Coalition, talking about proposals in the General Assembly, specifically those on sales tax redistribution. And my mantra of late has been to say that if our state is to be able to compete against other states, if our future will have better paying jobs and more job opportunities, if our infrastructure needs are to be met and planned for, then why are we talking about taking sales tax away from some regions and giving to others? Why on earth are we not talking about a vision to make every region successful?
Two years ago, I went to China on two extraordinary trips. It took leaving our borders for me to learn that technology and manufacturing jobs are no longer the sweat shop jobs that some of us have assumed. The knowledge of computer programs and the handling of highly technical equipment takes study and aptitude and skill. Coming home, my own children proved to me that our family is the microcosm of what our State’s vision of the future should be. With me today is my youngest child, Sydney, who will spend her junior and senior years of college studying in France…the first student at NC State to participate in this program. At the end of four years of college, she will have two degrees…one in business administration and one in international business. Back in Huntersville is my 22 year old son, who I envisioned would go to college to be an architect or an attorney. His grades and test scores indicated those as potential paths. And although Zack loves to learn, in fact craves it, he wants hands on, trial and error experience. Today, he is a diesel mechanic. He has the same chances of job success and satisfaction as his college educated sister.
The mayor of Plano, Texas told me last week that he believed, as I do, that as elected officials, our job is to be the leaders of our communities not as they are today, but as they will be when they reach their potential. In North Carolina, we talk about bringing in a car manufacturer, as if that is the Holy Grail. There is so much more out there…medical research and development companies, robotics, 3D printing, energy efficiency and sustainability companies, technology startups, video game manufacturers and incubators of all kinds. A car manufacturer may be a good goal, but all the rest should be what we strive for as well. With a strong emphasis on workforce development, apprenticeship programs, and a concentrated effort on STEM careers of the future, we develop a foundation for moving forward. That is precisely what NC Tomorrow is doing today.
We are ONE North Carolina. In this next stage of our Regional Council of Government’s framework for our future success, OneNC should be our rallying cry. As late night talk show host Jimmy Fallon would say, “Hashtag OneNC” and tell our citizens and elected officials that we will settle for nothing less. We are One in competing for outside investments, One in raising the bar in job opportunities, One in setting the standards we expect to achieve. As OneNC, we can be our best. The best.
I procrastinated in writing my words for you today. If I had shown up with no speech, I would have let you down, and myself down. North Carolina simply cannot afford to procrastinate in moving forward on laying the groundwork for creating jobs for our future, because the consequences will be much more dire.
Clearly, my voice is loud, but with you joining me, we can have a chorus…and all we need is the drumbeat. Let’s start beating our drums today!