ELIZABETHTOWN — Movers and shakers from industry, business, education and public service gathered Wednesday at Cape Fear Vineyard & Winery for the annual Bladen County Committee of 100 dinner meeting.
With about 120 in attendance, the evening featured guest speaker Michael Nagowski, the CEO of Cape Fear Valley Health Systems, as well as an overview of recent and future projects the Committee of 100 has a hand in from Bladen County Economic Development Director Chuck Heustess.
First and foremost, Heustess pointed out that the facility being used for the meeting was one of the prime projects the Committee of 100 had worked on in the past several months.
“We feel it will be a real game-changer for Elizabethtown,” Heustess said.”And overall, the economic impact of this industrial park is a staggering number.”
Heustess went on to list other projects past and present, including the establishment of a small business incubator within the next six months.
“We’ve done an industrial incubator for about 15 years now, and feel it’s time to do something in the small business world,: he said.
Heustess added that the small business incubator is expected to be located in the old post office building on East Broad Street across from the courthouse in downtown Elizabethtown. He said a grant from USDA Rural Development will help to refurbish the building into five or six spaces.
“We’re also involved with drawing up a new Master Plan for the industrial park that will include all of the infrastructure, from roads to water lines to lift stations, etc.” Heustess said. “This plan will go a long way toward helping us to market the park.”
Heustess also said the Committee of 100 was involved with the new STEM building at Bladen Community College.
Nagowski talks health care
There were numerous highlights from within the Cape Fear Valley Health System for Nagowski to point out — including the fact that it has the state’s newest trauma center; the hospital was named one of the state’s best hospitals in 2016; and that the system has an “A” rating.
But Nagowski, who has been CEO of Cape Fear Valley since January 2008, was most excited about what has gone on recently at Campbell University.
“Did you know that it had been 50 years since there was a new medical school in North Carolina — until the medical school at Campbell opened?” he said. “And we are proud that (Cape Fear Valley Health System) has the most students roaming its campuses — 120 or so — from that medical school. And next year we will double that number.”
Nagowski also wanted to point out several highlights from Bladen County Hospital — such as that it was the first designated Center of Excellence for sepsis in the country; it has more than 1,000 admissions per year; delivers more than 200 babies each year; gets more than 30,000 emergency room visits per year; and its surgeons perform more than 2,000 surgeries each year.
“Without that hospital, we’d have to travel great distances to get that kind of treatment,” Nagowski said. “Aside from the health care provided, in terms of a business, Bladen County Hospital is a strong part of the local economy through jobs and quality of life.”
A question was posed to Nagowski about the long-range plans of the facility, and he said there was no doubt that the county needs a new hospital in order to continue growing and offering good, quality care.
“But it’s a $30 million endeavor,” he said. “I’m proud of all we do now, but we need to see the hospital’s use increase.”
Nagowski also spoke about the challenges posed by the Affordable Care Act and expanded Medicaid coverage.
He finished up answering a question about how the hospital system handles any complaints it receives from patients.
“We take complaints and grievances very seriously, because they are what helps to make us better,” Nagowski said. “To ignore that wealth of information would be foolish.”
Finally, Committee of 100 Chairman Hayes Petteway called for nominations for three-year terms on the board of directors. Nominated and approved unanimously were Trey Duncan, William Brisson, Linda Carey and Wesley Campbell.
W. Curt Vincent can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.