Fundraising under way for new CCCC program

Effort would benefit area high school students
Dec. 29, 2013 @ 05:03 AM

Central Carolina Community College is expanding its course offerings, having recently opened a new health sciences building in Lillington and looking into new classes on operating machinery for hydraulic fracturing and other types of drilling.

It's also looking to expand its enrollment by getting more high school students in Lee, Chatham and Harnett counties to take advantage of free tuition for those and other courses the college offers. But to do so, college officials and private supporters say, it needs about $750,000 over the next two years to establish a foundation of specialized advisors in every public high school in the area.

About $250,000 of that total either has been or will be raised through grants, officials have said. They plan on raising the remaining half a million through donations from the private sector as well as the three county governments in the college's service area. And Kirk Bradley, the Sanford businessman who is leading the fundraising efforts for the Central Carolina Works program, said they're well on their way.

"I'd say we're about 75 to 80 percent done with that," Bradley said. "Really, I'd say 75 percent because some of the commitments haven't been fully funded — they're working it up their chains. Like with corporate donors."

It's not all businesses and private individuals, though. The Chatham County Board of Commissioners recently approved $50,000 for the program, and the Harnett County Board of Commissioners will discuss the issue at its Jan. 6 meeting.

"Indications are we've got support in Harnett County for the program, and we hope they'll contribute," Julian Philpott, chairman of the CCCC Board of Trustees, said. "And we hope the Lee County commissioners will contribute to this program, which we feel will be a huge success."

Jim Burgin, a Harnett County commissioner who previously was chairman of the board, also serves on the CCCC board.

Lee County won't be officially taking the matter up for at least a few months, however. After a new Republican majority took control last year, the board made its funding process for local non-profits stricter, cutting that budget and asking that all monetary requests come via a formal application in the spring during the county's budget session.

"If they're going to provide a valuable service to the county that we aren't already providing, and the commissioners agree, then it would be approved," Commissioner Jim Womack, a Republican who has been involved in discussions about Central Carolina Works, said earlier this month.

Bradley noted that like the Lee County Commissioners, the Chatham and Harnett boards are led by a conservative majority. But Chatham approved the spending unanimously, and he said he has high hopes for similar votes of confidence from both Harnett and Lee counties — even if there are questions and concerns.

"There were some concerns (among the Chatham County Commissioners)," Bradley said. "... They had some specific provisions they wanted to focus on in terms of workforce development."

But he said CCCC President Bud Marchant and other college officials gave them a more-than-satisfactory answer, leading to the unanimous approval of $50,000 — and he's hoping to keep the streak alive. Bradley said with holiday travel as well as the upcoming Harnett County meeting, he hasn't had the chance to speak recently with any Lee County leaders who have voiced concerns, but that it's on his to-do list.

Philpott said the success of the much-lauded apprenticeship program between the college, Caterpillar and Lee County Schools has given CCCC a good reputation among local businesses. With the addition of this dual-enrollment advising program, he said, the college can help even more local businesses, as well as families, by providing tuition-free courses. It could even end up a business incentive in and of itself, he said.

"Ultimately, with this program, we're looking at it as a magnet for pulling in prospective employers," Philpott said. "It's going to be a win for the students, a win for the employers and a win for all three counties."