Latest budget is good to Triad

By: - August 11, 2005 5:15 am

Greensboro News & Record

RALEIGH — Some folks call it “pork,” as in pork-barrel spending. Others will say it is “essential local development spending.”

Whatever the name, Guilford County and the Triad got a share of it in the $17.2 billion state budget unveiled this week in the General Assembly.

The House gave the package preliminary approval late Tuesday, but the Senate did not consider the measure. Each chamber must hold two votes on the budget before it can go to Gov. Mike Easley for his signature or veto.

Among the largest scores for the area is the $2 million included for the effort to build an Atlantic Coast Conference Hall of Champions in Greensboro. The money wasn’t in either the House or Senate budget proposals but made it to the final version.

A committee hoping to build the project near the Greensboro Coliseum estimates it will take more than $20 million to buy the land, design the site and build it.

“This is what the committee was looking for to give them the operating funding to start the process and kick things into gear,” said Mitch Johnson, Greensboro’s interim city manager. “It’s not enough money to build anything, but it certainly is enough to hire some designers and get things beyond just a conceptual stage.”

Legislators who support the measure say it is as much an economic development project for the state as a boost to Greensboro’s

efforts to more closely tie itself to the collegiate sports conference.

“Tourism has a huge economic impact on North Carolina,” said Sen. Kay Hagan, a Greensboro Democrat who is among the chief Senate budget negotiators.

Still, not all legislators are happy with the budget.

Rep. John Blust, a Greensboro Republican, said it would have been better for taxpayers to eschew special projects.

“For all the pork we get, we have to support all that other pork from all over the state,” Blust said. “We don’t come out ahead.”

The ACC project might be viewed by those outside Greensboro much like Greensboro residents view projects in other parts of the state, such as a $400,000 grant for the Sparta Teapot Museum.

Some local spending benefits multi-county areas, such as a new position in the state Commerce Department that will be assigned to promote heritage tourism sites throughout the Triad.

MORE ONLINE Read the latest budget proposal here. Other Guilford projects to win funding include:

• The High Point Furniture Market, which will receive $1.2 million a year to help with transportation costs and another $750,000 to help with marketing the trade show to out-of-town visitors.

• The International Civil Rights Center and Museum will receive a $500,000 grant. The money would be used for construction or architects’ fees.

• The Charlotte Hawkins Brown Museum in Sedalia will get $1.5 million to help with renovations.

• The joint UNCG and N.C. A&T millennium campus will get $2 million. The Greensboro Center for Innovative Development, also known as the millennium campus, is designed to stimulate economic development by bringing together people in the academic and business communities and tapping local student talent. The money would be used for “planning, site development, infrastructure and renovation of facilities.”

• The Black Child Development Institute of Greensboro will get a $5,000 grant. The institute provides tutoring and mentoring for youth and also teaches advocacy skills to parents.

• The Greensboro Lifeskills Center will get a $10,000 grant. The center attempts to help the emotional and social-skill development of at-risk children.

• The High Point YMCA will get a $13,000 grant.

• Faith Matters will get a $5,000 grant. Faith Matters encourages women to move from economic dependence to economic self-sufficiency.

• The African-American Atelier, a nonprofit art gallery in downtown Greensboro, would get a $12,000 grant.

• The Guilford Native American Association will get a $10,000 grant.

• Triad Stage will get a $125,000 grant for operational expenses. Those expenses include running a scene shop that will be open to other nonprofits.

• The Greensboro Symphony will get a $50,000 grant.

• A proposed equestrian center in Rockingham County will receive $1 million.

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Chris Fitzsimon

Chris Fitzsimon, Founder and Executive Director of N.C. Policy Watch, writes the Fitzsimon File, delivers a radio commentary broadcast on WRAL-FM and hosts "News and Views," a weekly radio news magazine that airs on multiple stations across North Carolina. [email protected] 919-861-2066