Chatham County Just Received Two Statewide Accolades

What do community college and tourism have in common? They are both earning Chatham County some serious bragging rights.

College affordability: The Chatham Journal reported last week that Central Carolina Community College, which has a campus located in Chatham County, earned a top-10 ranking in two categories in the latest rankings. Officially, CCCC placed ninth among the two-year schools in the “Best Colleges in North Carolina” rankings and ninth among the online associate degree programs in the “Most Affordable Online Colleges in the United States” rankings, according to the paper.

Tourism: In the same week, the Chatham Journal reported the Governor’s Office and NC Department of Commerce released the most recent statewide tourism spending report, which indicated domestic tourism spending has increased in Chatham County by three percent since 2013. This continues a trend of increased tourism spending over the past six years, the Journal reports.

Needless to say, I’m so proud of Chatham County, and I’m not surprised by either article. We have some great people living and working here, and they deserve the recognition. Here’s why:

Central Carolina Community College:

What CCCC offers: CCCC offers many Associate in Applied Science degrees, as well as diploma and certificate programs, which prepare students for immediate entry into the workforce. It also offers non-college-level classes, including adult basic education, English as a second language, and continuing education technical, vocational, enrichment, and general interest areas.

For students interested in attending the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, CCCC is one of several North Carolina colleges participating in a program called C-STEP (Carolina Student Transfer Excellence Program). C-STEP identifies talented low- to moderate-income students while they are still in high school or early in their community-college careers and guarantees their eventual admission to UNC if they earn an appropriate associate degree and successfully complete the program. C-STEP has served or currently serves almost 500 students; 280 of those have already enrolled at Carolina and about 135 C-STEP students have graduated.

Where CCCC is located: CCCC has campuses in Lee, Harnett and Chatham Counties, and the Pittsboro Campus is the primary location for the college’s sustainability programs, offering degrees in Sustainable Agriculture and Sustainability Technologies and certificates in Biofuels, Green Building, Renewable Energy, and Sustainability. This campus is also the primary site for Culinary Arts, including a degree in Culinary Arts and certificates in Culinary Fundamentals and Farm-to-Table Entrepreneurship. The on-campus Natural Chef Cafe features sustainable meals prepared by students in the CCCC Culinary Arts Continuing Education and Curriculum programs.

CCCC operates two other sites in Chatham County as well:

  • Chatham County Small Business Center: The college’s Chatham County Small Business Center and Chatham County Career Center are located in the administrative/classroom building on the Pittsboro campus. The Small Business Center provides business counseling and training opportunities, while the Career Center focuses on individual’s career development and goal planning.
  • Siler City Center: The Siler City Center opened in 2011 on 41 acres in the Central Carolina Business Campus. The 24,000-square-foot facility is LEED-certified and exhibits innovative technology throughout. The building has classroom, office, medical, and vocational lab space used to teach Adult High School, GED, ESL, basic skills, workforce development, sculpture, medical certifications, and general college education.

What people are saying: “CCCC is one of the best community colleges in the state not only because of our robust associate degree offerings, but also because of our partnerships with business and industry that create opportunities for our students to pursue short-term training options, apprenticeships, and co-ops,” Dr. Pamela G. Senegal, CCCC Vice President of Economic and Community Development, told the Journal. “Students leave CCCC not only with a credential that is valued in the workplace, but they also leave with the overall skills to succeed far into the future.”

CCCC is making a great impact on North Carolina, and I’m glad they are getting recognized!

Increases in tourism spending:

How much spending has increased: As the Journal reports: On August 11, 2015, the North Carolina Division of Tourism, Film and Sports released the results of an annual study conducted by the U.S. Travel Association, which indicates that Chatham County’s “domestic visitors” spent $31.69 million during 2014, an increase of nearly three percent since 2013. The 2014 report also showed that travel and tourism in Chatham County directly employed more than 180 people and generated payroll of $3.73 million, which is a boon to local businesses.

Why spending has increased: Chatham County representatives credit the increase in tourism to farmers’ markets (Check out my recent blog post on the Farmers’ Market scene in Chatham County) and a new winery (blogged about that too!), as well as the upcoming Agriculture and Convention Center, which should open in the spring of 2016. And guess where this new Ag center will be located? On the Pittsboro campus of CCCC! Agriculture is one of Chatham County’s primary industries, and the 32,000-square-foot Agricultural Center includes 6,000 square feet of exhibit hall space that will seat approximately 400 at tables and 800 people theater-style. Expect a ton of events here as we make our way into 2016 and beyond.

What else is happening in Chatham? A lot! Check out my blog posts on:

  • Four Ways to Enjoy Live Music This Summer in Chatham County: In the heat of summer (pun intended), you can often find families and friends enjoying one another’s company outdoors. One of the best ways to have a good time this summer is to listen to live music, and Chatham County has many options!
  • Three Reasons Why Distilleries Are Becoming Popular in the Triangle: The locally-sourced food movement has grown beyond food to include beverages, and it’s making a big impact on the Triangle. If you fancy the idea of whiskeys and vodkas made from N.C.-based ingredients, you’re in luck!
  • Five Ways to Enjoy the Water This Summer in Chatham: Chatham County has plenty of things to do in the summers, including water-related activities to cool off from the hot sun! If you’re tired of June’s high temperatures, take a break by heading to a summer camp, swimming lessons, canoeing adventures or hiking around Jordan Lake. Here are five ways you can enjoy the water this summer!
  • How to Enjoy NC Beer Month in Chatham County: Did you know that April is North Carolina Beer Month? In celebration of breweries across the state, North Carolinians have taken the month of April to enjoy local beers.

With so much going on, it’s not surprising to me that tourism is increasing.

What people are saying: “Chatham County is an attractive place to visit and call home, and this message is ringing true for many people,” Sara O’Leary, director of marketing & membership for Governors Club, told the Journal. “Local businesses and institutions working together to deliver the message that Chatham County offers a vibrant quality of life bears fruit with the six continuous years of significant growth in tourism.”

I, for one, couldn’t agree more!