Category Archives: Charlotte Metro Region

Has Gastonia Turned the Corner?

 

SEABROOKS SAYS: Charles Gray is approaching the age of 80 and is consistently operation with tremendous energy.  One of the hard questions he asks is, “Have we (in Gaston County) turned the corner?” What is your answer? Are you ready to get involved in the same level as Charlie?  Why yes? Why no?  Now that you know, what will you do?   

 

In the past, I have expressed concern over Gastonia’s failure to grow in comparison to other cities in Metrolina.  I cited past reputation, missed opportunities, and unfavorable city regulations and inspections as reasons for our slow growth.  Recently, however, I have seen the following signs of hope (many of the facts have been furnished by Bill Seabrook):

 

  1. The Loray Mill and redevelopment of the Loray Mill.  The converted mill is now 96% occupied and we mill houses are scheduled for renovation and sale.

         

  2. The proposed sports center in West Gastonia.  The Sears building has already been purchased and the 15 million dollar project is scheduled for completion in 2019.

  3. The hotel in downtown Gastonia, with the first phase scheduled for opening in

    March of 2017.  

     

  4. The Harriss-Teeter shopping center and the new YMCA in South Gastonia. The 19

    million dollar YMCA project, headed by Tony Sigmon, has already been funded by local contributions and should be a showplace for the whole region.

     

  5. The formation of Gaston Outside (GO) under the leadership of Mark Cramer, who is working hard to improve Gaston’s image as a desirable place to live.

     

  6. A new attitude at city hall to make Gastonia more development friendly. The city

    council, under the direction of Mayor John Bridgeman, is providing strong leadership and the planning and inspections departments under the guidance of city manager Ed Munn and Flip Bombardier, are showing the much needed flexibility to encourage developers to come to Gastonia.

     

  7. The soon to be constructed artspace building will encourage the development of arts and culture in downtown Gastonia.

  8.  

  9. Through the hard work of our local school officials and Carrie Meier, Chris Dobbins

     and Steve Eason at our health department, teen pregnancy is down more that 52.7% with a tax savings of 40 million dollars. Our school drop-out rate is down and the graduation rate is up.

     

  10. The advanced manufacturing facility is well under way adjacent to the campus of

     Gaston College and should be completed ny the Spring of 2017.  

 

There are other needed projects, such as the southern bridge over the Catawba River and the expansion of the water and sewer down Union and New Hope Roads, but I believe Gastonia has turned the corner.

 

The other day I was playing golf with a young, successful real estate developer in Charlotte.  When he found out I was from Gastonia, he said, “I sure wish I lived in Gastonia. The traffic in Charlotte is unbearable.”  This tells me that our questionable reputation is fading and that Gastonia can be an ideal place for people to live and work in this rapidly growing area.  Let’s don’t foul it up.

 

 

 

Charles Gray

 

Retired attorney

 

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It’s Now or Never

SEABROOK SAYS:  Charles Gray is a highly-respected attorney who is now retired and who has great concern about the welfare of Gaston County.  Read about his concern for lower Gaston County and the access from there to the Charlotte area.  NOW THAT YOU KNOW, WHAT WILL YOU DO?

The other day, I traveled through Tega Cay, part of Highway 49 and River Hills.  I was amazed at the growth and vibrant activity in those areas.  I continued on and saw new schools and new residential areas until I crossed into Gaston County on Union Road.  It was like going back in time – nothing but open, undeveloped land, all the way to Gastonia.  The same existed along New Hope Road. No activity.

The Garden State Parkway would have changed this, but the wisdom (or lack thereof) of our legislators killed that project.  But Gaston County has one last chance. With the announced residential and commercial project in Mecklenburg County, extending from I-485 to the river, the need for access becomes a priority.   The new southern bridge over the Catawba River gains more importance.

With the new bridge, we could see a road from I-485 cross the river and connect to New Hope Road.  With cooperation between private land developers, the Federal Government, the NC DOT, Gaston County, Belmont, Cramerton and Gastonia, improvements could be made to New Hope Road and connect it to I-485.  This would open up southern Gaston County to unbelievable development and provide needed access to the new Mecklenburg County development and the intermodal transportation center at the airport.

Gaston County would leave the dark ages and charge into the 21st century.  This, however, takes determined leadership at all levels. Will our leaders act or let another opportunity go by?  It’s now or never.

Charles Gray
Former attorney

Ask Yourself

SEABROOK SAYS: Remember all of the good stuff as we all work to solve our problems.

Continuous Improvement

Ask Yourself:  Can Gaston get the big things done?

We have many critical issues that need our attention.  Here are a few:

  • Greater access to Charlotte
  • More jobs that our people can handle
  • Better education so more are qualified for better jobs
  • Attack poverty and keep poverty from draining us dry
  • Some houses of worship consistently make huge contributions, others offer very little engagement beyond trying to take care of their own

Here are good and big things happening now:

  • More than 30 churches and many volunteers are active with the Back Pack food program
  • Community leadership will get better at multiple levels
  • Completing the Loray Mill project
  • Created, built and are operating the Highland School of Technology
  • Decreased teen pregnancy ratemore than 30%
  • Became an All American City – twice
  • Unemployment rate dropped to 5% after loosing our textile industry
  • High school graduation rate has become much higher, the dropout rate much lower
  • 19,000 students are now attending Gaston College
  • Greater Gaston Development Corporation is actively helping Gaston County grow and finding jobs

All of us must continuously improve in all that we do!

Are you supportive of the changes needed?

Bill Seabrook
Digging Deeper

Leading Officials or Official Leadership?

SEABROOK SAYS:

Gaston folks, here is a fresh approach to community leadership. James is a former member of the staff of our United Way who now resides in Asheville.  What do you think? NOW THAT YOU KNOW, WHAT WILL YOU DO? 

Time for Growth in Gaston.

Gaston County, we have nine new neighbors. Welcome to the Charlotte Metro Region. I know some of you are making a face and saying, “We’re not Charlotte!” You’re right. The obvious is often true. We are Gaston County, and as Gaston County, we face a question: Does Gaston County have what it takes to be the benchmark for success in the region? I believe so. I believe a real desire for a dynamic, diverse community, with a waiting list for new residents, exists. I know might be overly optimistic, yet only about the waiting list.

 Do we know ourselves?

Our county is not at all different from most counties that surround a large city. We want to be in the game, but we want our identity intact. As such we’ve talked a good talk. We’ve met a good meeting. We’ve visioned a good vision. But did those efforts prove enough. I sat in those meetings. We talked, met, and visioned together. We made the effort out of care for this place. Informed by the same care, why don’t we ask a timely, tough question: What is it, Gaston County, that holds us up, that holds us back?

Whatever we’ve saved, for last or for later, now needs to come out of the box on the shelf and wow. If we indeed believe, and I think we do, in our worth and wonder, we now must prove it. Anyone considering jobs for Gaston County, investment in Gaston County, relocation of their family to Gaston County will politely listen to our praise of Gaston County. They will then watch what we do, compare Gaston County to the other counties. How well does our county supports our schools, provide infrastructure. Can Gaston County claim effective engagement with neighbors and a sense of connection to the region. What limits access to Gaston County; what sort of transportation plan is in place. Does Gaston County look like a county prepared for growth now and in the future?

Gaston County, do we know the answers to those questions? We need to know our strengths and our weaknesses. Like any community in our place, both can be found. What we do about is our opportunity to set ourselves apart.

Follow your Leader

Gaston County, for all the talk of a leadership deficit, builds leaders every day. The leadership potential exists within the Economic Development, Human Service, and the Civic sectors. Leaders who can lend expertise and specialized skills, know the way around the issues relevant to our county. Sharing a plan informed by data, experience, and wisdom, they are all in for this effort. This leadership recognizes the benefit possible for all through more and better jobs, an increased tax base, and greater investment. We will find qualities such as competence, compassion, integrity, confidence, flexibility, and honesty informing these leaders. This is Can Do leadership.

If we look at the success of communities such as Greenville, SC; Asheville, NC; and Franklin, TN, the importance of collaborative work between the private sector and the public sector is clear. Our significant, critical work will require collaboration with elected officials, both municipal and county. Officials will navigate difficult, sobering choices; choices best informed by a clear understanding of overarching, complex goals. This calls for leaders sharing the vision, not handing down the vision; leaders beyond the confines of party politics, thinking and acting locally; leaders mitigating conflict with compassion, dignity and respect for all involved; communicating through wisdom, not social media. We require critical thinkers furthering well crafted policy, cognizant of the present and future outcomes. Can we remind ourselves too often that the image problem faced by Gaston County won’t benefit from the antics of ineffective, disengaged, political officials in the guise of leaders. Certainly not. Friends, let’s agree to follow great leaders by electing great leaders. This time. Every time.

James Burgess