Projected growth, economic links driving CONNECT Our Future

An initiative that seeks public comment on the future of a region that  encompasses 14 counties in North Carolina and South Carolina moved a step  forward Friday with a meeting involving several local officials.

CONNECT Our Future is an initiative that deals with the future growth of a  14-county region that includes the North Carolina counties of Anson, Cabarrus,  Cleveland, Gaston, Iredell, Lincoln, Mecklenburg, Rowan, Stanly, and Union, and  the South Carolina counties of Chester, Lancaster, Union, and York. The region’s  population is projected to grown by 50 percent in 20 years and to double within  40 years and the goal of CONNECT Our Future is to develop plans that will enable  the region to successfully cope with and benefit from such growth.

To help develop those plans, the initiative seeks the views of the residents,  businesses, educators, government leaders and other groups in the 14-county  region. A series of meetings and open houses have been scheduled and are taking  place throughout the region to solicit those views.

One of those meetings was held Friday afternoon at the City of Union  Municipal Building and involved members of Union City Council, Union County  Council, the Union County Chamber of Commerce, and the Union County Development  Board. During the meeting, an overview of the initiative was provided by  representatives of the Catawba Regional Council of Governments and the Lee  Institute who then facilitated discussion in a small group setting.

“This is one of the community engagement opportunities,” Robert Moody, senior  planner with the Catawba Regional Council of Governments, said. “This was an  opportunity to get input from residents through discussion and a survey about  what matters for the future.”

Moody said the initiative grew out of previous collaboration between the  region’s North Carolina and South Carolina councils of government.

“The two basic common denominators are the councils of government for the  region,” Moody said. “I work for the Catawba Regional Council of Governments  which includes the four South Carolina counties of Union, York, Chester and  Lancaster. The other is the Centralia Council of Governments and its 10 counties  in North Carolina.

“There’s been bi-state regional efforts over the past two decades,” he said. “The most recent effort that proceeded CONNECT Our Future was called CONNECT. It  included the same geographic area so this is not a new concept.”

While large and diverse, Moody said the region is connected economically.

“The basic connection is the Charlotte economic center and the economics of  the region ties the area together,” Moody said. “It links urban Charlotte with  the suburban ring that includes cities like Rock Hill and Gastonia and rural  communities like Union and Lincoln.”

Moody said the economic interconnectedness of the region means that all of  its constituent communities will be affected as growth occurs and why it is so  important that all involve themselves in the CONNECT Our Future and help develop  the plans for dealing with that growth. He urged the residents of Union County  to attend the CONNECT Our Future open house that will be held at the Union  County Advanced Technology Center on February 28 to learn more about the  initiative and take the opportunity to contribute to the planning for the  region’s future.

By Charles Warner, Staff Reporter with The Union Daily Times