Author: Hallee Haygood

Shortage of Volunteer Firefighters

Did you know… Out of the 1,087 registered fire departments in North Carolina, more than 90% are volunteer or mostly volunteer departments? 

 The Challenge

Municipalities in North Carolina are struggling to recruit volunteer firefighters within their localities. This is likely due to a decrease in the time that residents have, as well as a decreasing interest in emergency services. As more people are finding themselves commuting to work, they are less likely to volunteer in any capacity. However, the most pressing issue for recruitment, is a lack of interest among young populations.

The Solution

When youth are introduced to firefighting curricula, they are more likely to engage as volunteers. This has led to an increase in educational opportunities about the work of firefighters, as well as training programs within schools. In Orange County, the best solution has been training those in high school and community college, which allows students to gain credits while also improving their community. Orange County’s programming for youth in the community has been very successful.

Orange County High School offers courses in three phases: “Fire Fighter Technology I, II, and III.  The completion of both Fire Fighter Technology I and II will cover modules required for all fire fighters in North Carolina.  Fire Fighter Technology I includes modules on Orientation & Safety, Health and Wellness, Portable Extinguishers, Foam Fire Streams, and Emergency Medical.  Fire Fighter Technology II includes modules on Building Construction, Ropes, Alarms & Communications, Forcible Entry, Ladders, Ventilation, and Loss Control.” This has allowed for students to get certified at a younger age, and to know what they want out of their careers sooner. Anywhere from eight to ten students will be involved during the semester.

By creating programming to recruit students to be volunteer firefighters, departments have been able to fill the gaps they have been seeing. Additionally, many schools have created junior firefighting programs, fire academies, and even fire camps for younger children. Bringing these two groups together is essential for success.

The Learning

As localities continue to push for an increase in the number of volunteer firefighters within their community, it will be essential to train folks at a young age. The sooner that kids and teenagers are in contact with fire education, the better. This will allow them to start considering volunteering in the present, as well as becoming a firefighter for their eventual occupation. Departments will need to consider new ways to reach youth in the community. One way to do this is through social media, whether that is through recruitment posts or “day in the life” videos. New and unique tools will be essential for recruitment and will ensure that the number of volunteer firefighters does not continue to decrease.

Reentry from Incarceration to Workforce

Did you know… As many as 60% of North Carolinians with a criminal record remain unemployed within one year of being released?

 The Challenge

As the number of individuals being incarcerated over time has increased, municipalities have been searching for new ways to address the issue. One of the biggest challenges to the prison system is that when people come out, they are rarely offered resources to restart their lives. From the lack of housing for those with a criminal charge, to struggles with transportation, to finding employment after incarceration, the system as it stands makes it hard for individuals to get back on their feet after stepping back into society.

The Solution

In Pitt County, leaders in the community were searching for a way to address the consistent struggle of people reentering society after incarceration. The solution they used was an entire network of organizations dedicated to decreasing barriers for those coming out of the prison system. Life of NC in Pitt County created two distinct programs that address reentry after incarceration. The first is called “Reentry” and is focused around Local Reentry Councils (LRC). This is a group of stakeholders that work to break down barriers around housing, case management, mental health counseling and more. Every Council finds their own location-based solutions that will be most successful for those in the areas. The goal is to “offer assistance and resources for offenders/formerly incarcerated individuals to become productive residents, reduce recidivism and victimization.”

Pitt County’s second solution is STRIVE NC, which focuses on employment skills, and has had more than 2,000 graduates since its creation in 2000. The success rate is incredibly high, with 75% of graduates fully employed. Bringing more people into the job market of Pitt County increases overall individual revenue, which benefits the economy. STRIVE brings government representatives, faith-based organizations, non-profit leaders, business community members, and so many more together to further the lives of residents after incarceration.

The Learning

As these Councils are being created across the state of North Carolina, it is becoming easier for other municipalities to follow suit. For those looking to create a program similar to Life of NC, the most important thing is bringing all relevant agencies into the conversation, whether or not programs similar to STRIVE NC or Reentry are being created. Additionally, the county has found success due to a break between employment and social aspects of reentry, as these are two separate but important challenges. Pitt County’s solution has been successful as everyone involved has participated in conversations, including those who have been incarcerated. Although bringing multiple stakeholders to the table is important as well, those who have experienced these programs bring the most important feedback to such innovations.

Renewable Energy in Rural Communities

Did you know… Eighteen percent of all electricity in the United States was produced by renewable sources in 2017, including solar, wind, and hydroelectric dams? That’s up from 15% in 2016!

 The Challenge

As society continues to modernize, more issues arise for government entities to address. Budget departments face the need to increase revenues, while the demand for services rises. Additionally, industries have been impacted by changes in specialization. Climate change is also continuing throughout the state as the coast experiences more natural disasters, and temperatures fluctuate. These are only a few of the struggles governments are working to solve, however, one possibility attempts to address these “wicked problems.”

 The Solution

Municipalities have the opportunity to change the way that they function by bringing renewable energy to their communities. Rural areas in North Carolina have brought in both solar and wind power, which benefits the revenue stream and assists in tackling climate change. Solar power companies will come into cities and provide their solar panels. As they become part of the community, they join the local economy, and their taxes highly benefit residents of these cities.

 

 

Wind power has also brought similar benefits to communities, while taking up less space. Some wind agencies have worked with farmers to ensure that turbines do not ruin the local industries. For example, they have implanted the devices in farmland, and worked with farmers to create space around the turbine for them to further their crop yield. It has allowed for greater crop growth and assisted in the fight against climate change.

The Network that Worked

In America, 55% of current investments into renewable energy go to rural counties due to their access to resources and smaller populations. Therefore, as more companies are looking to bring their business to rural areas, it is important that North Carolina stand apart. The Amazon Wind Farm alone brings in around $800 million in revenue to the state, so it is essential for the officials to assist in making North Carolina desirable for investors. Further, local government entities need to push folks to come to the area, if this is the way they choose to increase revenue. Additionally, researchers need to continue to disperse their findings to rural communities, so they can better analyze the costs and benefits to renewable energy in their localities.

 

 

The Learning

Cities or counties looking to bring renewable energy to their community will need to consider a variety of issues. First, the benefits of bringing renewable energy to your community, are that it: 1) addresses climate change, 2) improves public health, 3) an inexhaustible energy source, 4) provides jobs and other economic benefits, 5) creates stable energy prices, and 6) forms general reliability and reliance on renewables.

However, there are also some barriers that entities also need to be aware of: 1) negotiations and deals with renewable companies, 2) fluctuations in property values and population, and 3) general fights from opponents. Consideration will be necessary, but after an appropriate analysis, real change can be seen in rural communities that bring in renewables.

Human Trafficking in the Triad

*Trigger Warning: Sex Trafficking*

The Challenge

In North Carolina human trafficking has been a prevalent issue for many years now. Despite this, it has only recently come to the forefront of community concern. Many people working to combat this issue note that they did not even hear it discussed in the state until around eight years ago. Although it was something people knew existed, it was not apparent as an expansive problem in North Carolina. However, as time has gone on it has become clear that due to the state’s high level of tourism and the extent of the highway system, human trafficking needs to be addressed.

Did you know… N.C. is among the top 10 states in the number of trafficking reports? In the past 10 years, the NHTH has identified almost 2,700 victims of human trafficking in the state.

The Solution

Addressing human trafficking in North Carolina is of the utmost importance. The best way to tackle an issue of this size is by bringing in a unique team to find solutions to the problem. In the Piedmont Triad, a variety of organizations have been brought together, all relying on their areas of expertise to create a network of collaboration. Nonprofit organizations from all over the state are working to find solutions to human trafficking.

For example, one organization works to educate truck drivers about the signs of human trafficking. Often the truck driving population interacts with women who are experiencing sex trafficking, but do not know the signs to look for, so they do feel concerned. While the World Relief Foundation connects survivors of human trafficking with resources that they may need going forward, for the Triad, and many other areas, the current solution is bringing organizations together. As more and more folks join the ranks, the greater the likelihood of ending human trafficking becomes.

 

 

 The Learning

Although human trafficking has not been eradicated in North Carolina, agencies can learn from what the Triad community has done. The key is to bring multiple organizations together to find solutions. These organizations have worked to educate folks about the issue, as well as teach others how to look for signs of human trafficking.

Further, one of the biggest takeaways for communities is that there is still a lack of knowledge on the topic. Human trafficking looks different everywhere, but one missing piece of the puzzle is existing data. Specialists on the issue all agree that more studies need to be conducted so that there is enough qualitative and quantitative information about the issue. If your organization is looking to address human trafficking, this will be one of the most important tools they can utilize.

 

 

Downtown Development in Kinston, NC

Did you know… From July 2011 to June 2017, Lenoir County has invested 288.6 million in economic development and created 1,236 jobs during the process?

 The Challenge

As municipalities in North Carolina lose residents due to a decrease in demand for certain industries, cities are searching for innovative ways to recruit new people to the area. Kinston was struggling to maintain city networks after the 2008 financial crisis, and the decline of their tobacco industry. People had lost their sense of community, and their ties to the area. Kinston was searching for an ideal solution and found that the best way for them to recruit new residents while retaining old ones was through downtown development.

 The Solution

Kinston is as a unique example for rural areas looking to reinvigorate their communities and economies. Small businesses in the area have partnered with the local leaders to create changes that will benefit the town in a variety of ways. One such example of this is Kinston’s Planning Department revolving loan program that allows for entrepreneurs to come to the area, while also contributing to the economy of the city.

The Network that Worked

Kinston has relied on its networks to push downtown development forward. Community members note that it has been so successful due to the involvement of government leaders, main street directors, business and property owners, developers, and anyone willing to take on a leadership role. In a town of roughly 20,000 people this has led to a high investment of those living there. Public-private partnerships have created a downtown that many people are excited to move to, baby boomers and millennials alike.

Businesses in Kinston have highlighted that the most crucial part of their involvement has been remaining complementary to each other, and not becoming overly competitive. Each business sees themselves as part of a unit in the downtown district, working to build others up, instead of tearing them down. This uplifting nature has allowed businesses to thrive and remain in the area, which furthers the economy and investment in the downtown district.

The Learning

There have been a variety of takeaways for Kinston that any municipality looking to further their downtown development will need to know. First, any city looking to do this will need to have a full understanding of their existing assets, as well as the values of the residents. Knowing your assets allows you to get a clear picture of what development could turn into, and what needs to be updated in the process. Additionally, if development is not something your residents and business owners are looking for, it will be difficult to get folks on board.

Not only will understanding the values of the existing community be essential for the process, but you will also want to gain an understanding of populations coming to the area. What will stand out to them about your community? Lastly, public-private partnerships will need to be created and utilized throughout the process. Kinston’s partnerships have allowed the city to grow in unique ways, and to thrive in the economic climate today.

 

 

 

Rural Transportation Challenges- Hertford and Bertie Counties

Did you know…In the 2009 American Housing Survey, public transit was available to only 13% of rural residents compared to the national average of 57%?

 The Challenge

Rural communities across the nation are struggling to provide transit to their residents. With an aging population and a lack of public transportation infrastructure, rural residents often cannot get to the places they need, particularly their medical appointments. The consequences can be dire. For example, there are people who are unable to make it to ongoing dialysis treatments. A study done by The American Public Transportation Association confirms the need for medical transport, as they found that nearly 9% of public transit riders in small urban and rural areas were going to receive medical services.

The team at ncIMPACT looked at this issue in Hertford and Bertie counties in North Carolina.

The Solution

Hertford and Bertie counties have developed a program, called TRIP, that serves as an “Uber style” mode of transportation for residents. No light rail, no buses, just cars and vans. In this episode of ncIMPACT, Choanoke Public Transportation Authority, or CPTA, works with Bertie and Hertford counties to provide individual local rides to residents and a shuttle to medical centers in Greenville during the week. This allows residents to make it to essential medical appointments and other related activities, including scheduled exercise programs. Residents using the service are required to pay $1.00 to assist in subsidizing the cost of their transportation.

 The Network that Worked

Those employed by Hertford and Bertie counties as well as the CPTA, worked to engage other organizations in participating in the program. They worked to bring in local “mom and pop” companies with new transportation options. Bringing in organizations that residents already trusted furthered the use of the program and has allowed it to continue. However, that process was not easy. One of the most difficult aspects of working with stakeholders has been keeping everyone connected and ensuring that all participants were involved. However, there also needs to be further centralization around providers, such as the creation of employee-sponsored vanpools or other point-to-point systems. Simplifying the process will make it easier for organizations and stakeholders.

 The Learning

The transportation challenges faced by residents of Hertford and Bertie Counties are faced by those in many rural communities.  To respond effectively, communities must engage essential stakeholders and build trust among them. County and city governmental entities will need to be involved to engage regional transportation authorities. In addition, due to the need for some level of funding, local leaders will need to be willing to make a direct financial investment or seek grants and bonds on the local, state, and federal level. On the other hand, the private sector may offer creative options for transportation, healthcare providers with significant incentive to innovate, and civic organizations that are driven by mission to resolve the challenge.

Finally, no community can forget to involve those who will be using the service. If they are not involved, then the solution will not serve them as well as it should. Local groups and agencies need to get involved so that their members’ voices can be heard. Additionally, local officials need to work to include those who are not in these organizations. When all parties involved are included, there will be a higher likelihood for success.

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