Green Economy Grows Jobs in Cabarrus County NC
Sustainability efforts by business, civic, government and education entities throughout the county are reaping results.
Taking a lead role is the Cabarrus Sustainability Council, formed in 2009 through the efforts of Cabarrus County, the cities of Concord and Kannapolis, the Cabarrus Regional Chamber of Commerce and Cabarrus Economic Development. The council promotes public and private sustainability collaborations in everything from process waste reduction to recycling to sustainable building practices to food.
Elma C. Lomax Incubator
At the heart of this unique community sustainability model is a strong focus on local agriculture enhancements and small business investment, says John Cox, president and chief executive officer of the Cabarrus Regional Chamber of Commerce.
“For decades, much of the economic base of the Carolinas was in tobacco and textiles, as people traditionally made their living from the ground up,” Cox says. “One way for people to return to their roots is by focusing on the family farms that are still here, not only with land crops, but also animal production.”
County leaders strengthened a healthy partnership with North Carolina Extension Service to collaboratively develop a farm incubator, where beginning farmers are offered classroom training and hands-on experience on county-owned certified-organic farmland, located within the Elma C. Lomax Incubator. Also in the works is a local meat-processing facility that will support expansion of local meat sales, thus reducing the cost of locally produced meat by minimizing time and travel costs of local farmers.
The second key element in creating a sustainable community, Cox says, is fostering locally owned businesses, which are more likely to be rooted in the community, encouraging entrepreneurs and providing distinctive character.
Toward that end, county leaders recently established the Cabarrus County Council for a Sustainable Local Economy, which is charged with creating strategies and recommendations to encourage the development of a resilient, robust local economy.
Recycling and Air Quality Take Center Stage
Recycling was the 2010 initiative of the sustainability council, and schools, cities and businesses are now involved in recycling pick-up programs. The focus in 2011 is on improved outdoor air quality, Cox says, with indoor air quality to be addressed in 2012.
“Our initiative with outdoor air quality is a no-idling program,” he says. “Our goal is to place 50-plus no-idling signs throughout Cabarrus. Throughout this year, more than 30 air quality presentations will be made to various groups, including homeowner associations and civic groups.”
Roush Fenway Racing Is Sustainability Leader
Among the leading business proponents of the county’s sustainability program is Roush Fenway Racing, one of NASCAR’s largest premier racing teams, headquartered in Concord.
In 2009 and 2010 Roush met its overall goal of a 10 percent improvement in indoor air quality, reduction of water consumption and improved levels in waste reduction, recycling and energy usage.
“Our paper recycling actually went down in 2010, as we proactively reduced the incoming waste stream, and we doubled our plastics recycling,” says Ian Prince, the company’s chief sustainability officer and former chairman of the sustainability council.
Going forward, Roush is adopting a no-idling policy on its campus and for all corporate vehicles.
“We are also switching our paint operations to a water-based paint, so we will not be using solvents, and we will continue to focus on education and awareness within the county,” Prince says.
2010 Sustainability Winners
At the Cabarrus Regional Chamber’s annual meeting, winners in the areas of Sustainability Excellence were recognized with awards sponsored by Southgate Masonry and Lumber and Vulcan Materials. The 2010 award recipients include:
- Oiles America Corp.: Waste Reduction & Recycling
- City of Kannapolis Environmental Stewardship Commission Community Garden: Air Quality
- Concord Aviation Properties LLC: Energy Reduction
- Cabarrus County Elma C. Lomax Incubator Farm & Rowan-Cabarrus Community College: Environmental Protection
- Roush Fenway Racing: Environmental Excellence in Recycling