Industry partners, county administration, state and federal government representatives and Southeastern Community College staff assembled behind Cartrette building near a row of dirt and shovels on Dec. 11. It was groundbreaking day for SCC’s newest construction project on campus: a new greenhouse made possible by a $375,000 grant from the North Carolina Tobacco Trust Fund.
“It’s a great day for us here at Southeastern Community College, where we get to celebrate like this with a groundbreaking,” said Dr. Chris English, SCC President. “We’ve got a lot of projects going on, and this is probably one that has been at the forefront. Today would not be possible without the North Carolina Tobacco Trust Fund.”
While emphasizing the importance of partnerships, English explained that building a new greenhouse will build a workforce for Columbus County. It will help grow the existing farmer population and the technology needed to advance. From workforce development to university transfer and technical training, English said the new greenhouse will “take it to the next level.”
“While Columbus County has suffered a few setbacks here lately with some of our older factories leaving,” N.C. Representative Brenden Jones said. “But y’all, it’s just part of the times. I’ve always said this, but economic growth will come through education. This is what we’re doing and why we’ve made such huge investments in the Tobacco Trust Fund and Southeastern Community College.”
Jones said the partnership with the NCTTF and U.S. Senators Thom Tillis and Ted Budd, in addition to relationships built between the state, county and school boards, is what builds community.
“Thank you for letting us be a part of helping you in investing in our communities,” Jones said. “It means the world to us because agriculture is king. Where else can you stand beside the vegetable garden and the chickens and talk about great things for their county?”
SCC Agribusiness Technology instructor Dawn Hinshaw said she is looking forward to new instruction methods and hands-on experiences with students that have not been possible before. She explained that the greenhouse will expand continuing education opportunities in addition to providing field trip spaces for high school and middle school students.
“Starting off, the focus will be on hydroponics, some different bedding plants that the community likes, vegetables and growing their own food,” Hinshaw said. “So, we can really focus on the local food movement and things like that.”
Representing the North Carolina Tobacco Trust Fund were David McPherson, William Upchurch and Jeff Camden. McPherson attributed the power of teamwork to the groundbreaking ceremony and said the greenhouse will enhance agriculture and horticulture technology instruction in Columbus County.
“We’ve had an opportunity over the years to invest a lot of money in agriculture because our total focus is how do we move agriculture forward in the state of North Carolina,” Upchurch asked. “It’s the help of Representative Brenden Jones, his leadership and coworkers that allow us to do these opportunities and to give money out like this. We’ve had tremendous success in working with community colleges.”
Upchurch said that SCC fit the “perfect criteria” in timing, location and population for the trust fund to support. He explained that community support made SCC’s grant application a strong one and one “we were very glad to fund.”
Camden explained the grant application process, the process of visiting a potential recipient and evaluation methods for determining where money is needed most.
“We’re making sure that we can partner with community colleges to bring the agriculture industry forward and to help the farmers bring more profitable entities to their farms,” Camden said.
SCC Board of Trustees Chair Joe Hooks concluded the ceremony by thanking everyone in attendance and for supporting SCC’s efforts in educating a workforce that will attract industries to Columbus County.
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