Three projects in the county earn Golden LEAF nod

RALEIGH — State Rep. William Brisson’s office announced on Thursday that proposed projects for Bladen Community College, Bladen County Schools and the town of Elizabethtown will be receiving Golden Leaf Foundation money as part of the Golden LEAF Community Based Grantsmaking Initiative.

The projects were submitted in November. Twenty-two counties were encouraged to submit up to three projects totaling up to $1.5 million to be considered for funding.

According to a release from Brisson’s office, Bladen County was the only county to have three projects funded.

The projects funded were:

— $500,000 to Bladen Community College for construction costs for an advanced manufacturing technology facility to provide STEM, health care training, and advanced manufacturing programs.

— $300,656 to Bladen County Schools to develop a STEM academy. This is the full amount requested.

— $197,000 to the town of Elizabethtown for a water and sewer expansion project at the Elizabethtown Industrial Park.

“We’re very pleased,” said BCC President William Findt.

Findt said there was strong competition for a limited amount of funding that was available. He added this grant means a great deal to the school. Findt said the school will also be applying to the Economic Development Association for a grant in the amount of $1.2 million for additional funds to be utilized towards the advanced manufacturing facility. Findt added the Golden LEAF funds would help to bolster the the EDA grant application.

Brisson said, “I have also advised the U.S. Economic Development Administration of our interest in this project, as this would help match a prospective larger grant for that entity (BCC).”

Findt said the total cost to construct the advanced manufacturing facility will be about $1.76 million. He said the building will include lab space, a bay area where the manufacturing technology students can both observe and learn about processes, a chemistry lab which the school has not had, a computer lab and another classroom.

He said the new space will allow the school to have more “up to date equipment” for students to use in the learning process.

“Right now our spaces are from the 1980s or older,” said Findt of the current campus facilities.

When contacted, Bladen County Schools Public Relations Director Valerie Newton expressed excitement at being fully funded.

Brisson said, “We have supported similar projects in other eastern North Carolina school systems, and have seen improved science and math scores among middle-schoolers as a result.”

Elizabethtown Manager Eddie Madden said, “We’re pleased that we received funding for the extension of sewer service in the industrial park that will hopefully result in job creation in the future.”

Madden said currently there is a section of the industrial park that lies between DelTon and Sue Bee Honey that does not currently have sewer access.

“This will provide sewer connectivity for the rest of the park,” said Madden of the grant funds.

Brisson said that he has also encouraged the Department of Commerce Utility Fund to consider contributing funding towards a related taxiway and road construction costs that would be associated with the Elizabethtown Industrial Park project.

Erin Smith can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.