This has been a great week in North Carolina. I’ve been traveling the district, visiting local tourist attractions and discussing issues of importance with local stakeholders to highlight the positive impact that tourism has on the Eighth District’s economy by creating jobs and driving commerce.
Tourism is such an important industry to North Carolina and especially to the Eighth District. North Carolina ranks as the 6th most visited state in the country. Tourism draws about $19 billion per year to our state, supporting more than 40,000 of our businesses and nearly 200,000 jobs.
On Monday, I had the opportunity to tour one of our state’s most popular attractions, the Uwharrie National Forest. This forest offers residents and tourists alike a beautiful retreat filled with green trails, rivers and streams through the historic Uwharrie Mountains. Unfortunately, it has been difficult for many to view the mountains and forest for the lack of safe travel. I applaud the local staff at the Forest Service for their dedication and the incredible work they do to maintain this natural treasure. However, the roads through this forest have experienced tremendous damage due to inclement weather and the lack of resources coming from bureaucrats in Washington has made it difficult to provide adequate maintenance. I am fighting to draw attention to this issue in Washington and preserve the needed funding for these roads.
I also had a chance to check out the renovations at the Flintlock Shooting Range, which is the only public shooting range on a national forest in the whole country. The range has been closed, but will be opening back up sometime next month!
I also got to meet with stakeholders at Concord Mills on Monday to discuss the incredible growth that this area has experienced. As you know, Concord Mills is North Carolina’s largest tourist attraction, attracting millions of visitors each year and contributing tremendously to our local economies. With Charlotte Motor Speedway just down the road as well, Exit 49 has become a hotbed of economic activity. In Cabarrus County, tourists spent $362 million in 2012 and there are about 57,000 people employed in tourism throughout the Charlotte region.
The economic engine of the Eighth District continued to move forward this week. I joined several community leaders to break ground on the new Concord Airport Business Park which will bring new businesses and jobs to the area. We had a great conversation about the importance of the I-85 construction to reduce traffic to make these attractions more accessible and enjoyable. I will continue to work hard with local, state, and federal officials to ensure that this construction is completed smoothly and accomplishes our goals.
It’s no wonder that this area receives so much traffic though — there are a lot of fun opportunities for residents and visitors alike. I had a chance to do a ride-along at the zMAX Dragway. To say this experience was a rush is a drastic understatement. Flying down a drag strip at 150 mph was an absolute thrill that I encourage everyone to go experience.
NASCAR’s presence in the Eighth District is so important. Not only does this industry provide great entertainment and support our economy, but they also are investing in our people to create a strong workforce at the NASCAR Technical Institute. On Thursday, I had the opportunity to speak at the 2014 NASCAR Tech Advanced Industries Skills Summit. The NASCAR Technical Institute and UTI are perfect examples of successful job training programs. These technical training programs are exactly what we need to get our district back to work. I’ve supported the SKILLS Act to eliminate roadblocks that prevent workers from accessing specialized job-training right now. This bill consolidates and streamlines more than 30 separate federally funded workforce development programs and protects taxpayer dollars by requiring an independent evaluation of each training program every five years.
Investing in our workforce ensures that as our district continues to grow and create new jobs, our people will be ready and equipped to take advantage of these opportunities.
I am so grateful for all the hard work that goes into supporting our local economy. Having the opportunity to see this first-hand this week was encouraging and very informative.
As we return to Washington next week, I will take what I’ve learned to find ways to support all of you and get our economy working again for everyone.