The North Carolina Governor’s Logistics Task Force stopped Thursday, June 24, at Western Carolina University to learn about Western North Carolina’s economic assets and existing transportation and technology infrastructure that make the region unique from other areas of the state.
The task force, chaired by Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton, was in Cullowhee as part of a series of statewide meetings designed to provide members with a chance to hear from a variety of economic development and transportation experts about regional needs across North Carolina.
“We are looking at roads, airports, ports, rail and technology,” Dalton said in opening the meeting. “It has not been since 1989 that we have had one large strategic statewide initiative like this. We are here to listen to you and to listen to the needs of Western North Carolina.”
Ken Flynt, associate dean of WCU’s College of Business, said that the meeting will arm elected officials with the information needed to make future decisions regarding infrastructure improvements in North Carolina.
“We are gratified to have the task force here on our campus, and to have this kind of attention being paid to the needs of the western part of the state,” Flynt said.
Many speakers at the half-day event discussed the unique logistical attributes of WNC, including a tourism-based economy that depends more on moving people from point to point than on moving goods, and the region’s rugged terrain that can hamper highway, rail and airport development.
“The solutions to the state’s issues are not one-size-fits-all,” Michael Smith, WCU professor of global management and strategy, told the task force. “We need to realize that we need to take distinctive, regional approaches in order for all areas of the state to prosper.”
Also speaking to the task force were Michell Hicks, chief of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians; Mickey Duvall, director of planning and development for the Eastern Band; Olivia Collier of the Appalachian Regional Commission; Dan Danieley of the Burlington Regional Airport; Pat Simmons of N.C. Department of Transportation’s rail division; J.B. Setzer, Division 14 engineer for N.C. DOT; and Inhyuck “Steve” Ha, WCU associate professor of economics.
The mission of the Logistics Task Force is to ensure that North Carolina has the necessary foundation to remain competitive in the global economy over the long term. The members of the task force are focusing on developing a strategic list of statewide priorities for continued job creation. The task force is studying the critical relationship between commerce and infrastructure. It expects to develop a plan for the seamless movement of people, goods and information throughout the state and beyond.
The task force was established in December by an executive order signed by N.C. Gov. Beverly Perdue. The Logistics Task Force is reviewing transportation systems in North Carolina, including roads and highways, airports, ports, multimodal transportation and railroads. The review will focus on giving North Carolina a competitive advantage in economic development by maximizing existing transportation systems and defining priorities for future transportation investments.
Among the task force members attending the WCU meeting were N.C. Secretary of Transportation Gene Conti and N.C. Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources Dee Freeman.