Tuesday, November 30, 2010

N.C. side of Smokies to get fleet of hybrids

"A handful of shiny, new hybrid Ford Escapes will soon be tooling about the North Carolina side of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, thanks to a grant from the North Carolina Department of Transportation," says National Parks Traveler.

“One of the most serious threats that the Smokies faces is the impact of air pollution on the Park’s plants, soils and aquatic life," said Deputy Superintendent Kevin FitzGerald. “We strive, through education and through our own example, to inform the public of ways that they can work towards cleaner air. One way we do this is by gradually transitioning our vehicles and equipment towards cleaner technology.”

According to the article, the park purchased the seven rigs with nearly $200,000 from the transportation department's Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Program. The CMAQ funding is U.S. Department of Transportation money that was allocated by the Rural Planning Organizations of the Land-of-Sky Regional Council and Southwestern Commission.

The goal of the CMAQ Program is to reduce air emissions in counties where air quality is in non-attainment of EPA Clean Air Act standards. The portions of Swain and Haywood counties that lie within Great Smoky are both in non-attainment due to elevated levels of ground level ozone, according to park officials.

The new vehicles are replacing seven "much more polluting vehicles, including two full-size pickups, three station wagons, and a sedan, some of which are over 20 years old, so emissions reduction are projected to be substantial," a park release said.

The new vehicles will be used in North Carolina park operations ranging from ranger patrols in the campgrounds to trail maintenance.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Raleigh passes Cleveland, Durham passes W-S in population estimates

Raleigh is now the 43rd largest city in America, bumping Cleveland from that spot, based on population estimates, according to Buffalo Business First.

Projected populations are generated by a computer formula that Business First developed in 2000 and recalibrates annually. The formula uses a decade of U.S. Census Bureau data to extrapolate growth trends.

In addition, Durham is now the fourth largest city in the state, bypassing Winston-Salem. The Bull City had 237,214 residents as of Nov. 22, while Winston-Salem boats an estimated population of 234,268. A year ago, Winston-Salem had 229,828 residents, compared to 229,171 in Durham.

Raleigh remains firmly entrenched as the second biggest city in North Carolina. With a population of 426,708, Raleigh ranks comfortably ahead of Greensboro (260,927) but well behind Charlotte (729,781).

The Queen City boasts a No. 18 ranking nationally. Raleigh is 43rd, Greensboro 72nd, Durham 84th and Winston Salem 85th.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

N.C. Research Campus to get Trudeau?

Maybe I'm out of the loop (not that unrealistic), but I had never heard of Trudeau Institute before coming across this article. Nonetheless, it sounds like the thought of this institute having a location in Kannapolis is a big deal.

Are Trudeau Institute officials eyeing a state-of-the-art research campus in North Carolina as a possible site for expansion or relocation?

Village Mayor Clyde Rabideau thinks so.

Rabideau, in a guest commentary published in Friday's Enterprise, said "there's a buzz" that Trudeau will be sending its representatives to take a look the North Carolina Research Campus in Kannapolis, N.C.

"Now, like most buzzes, it may or may not be true," Rabideau wrote, "but Trudeau management say they need an urban research hospital environment like Kannapolis to get more federal funding, so it is believable. And, even if it isn't true, Saranac Lakers should still take its measure and gird for battle."

Rabideau told the Enterprise Friday that the tip that Trudeau is looking at the North Carolina site came to him from "a couple reliable sources." He declined to elaborate, although he said he was confident that his information is correct.

"I'd stake my reputation on this," he said. ...

Trudeau officials have recently launched a strategic planning process to study the Institute's options for future growth. Trudeau has hired the New England Consulting Group to evaluate several options, including expansion of the Institute's current facilities, building a new clinical research site out of state or leaving Saranac Lake for a new location. Institute officials have said they want to bring Trudeau scientists closer to a clinical research setting near a hospital or university in order to ensure the Institute remains competitive for federal funds.

The North Carolina Research Campus, built on a former site of a textile mill about 30 miles northeast of Charlotte, offers just that kind of setting. Initially founded by David H. Murdock, the former CEO of Dole Foods, the public-private venture is designed to foster collaboration and advancements in the fields of biotechnology, nutrition and health.

Research programs from seven University of North Carolina campuses as well as Duke University are represented at the campus, which has two newly constructed buildings and will eventually offer more than 1 million square feet of lab and office space. It also has a partnership with Carolinas HealthCare System, which owns a teaching and research hospital in Charlotte, according to the Tribune report.

Rabideau, in his commentary, called the research campus the "Land of Biotech Oz" and describes it as "our most fearsome competitor."

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

New center to support and promote N.C. wine

According to a press release, the Shelton-Badgett North Carolina Center for Viticulture and Enology opened its doors at Surry Community College on Friday, November 5th. The Center was hailed by Governor Beverly Perdue as the facility that will provide the "backbone" for the state's growing wine industry.

The $5 million facility is the centerpiece of SCC's Viticulture & Enology program, which for the past decade has prepared students for careers as winemakers and vineyard managers. The 16,000-square-foot building includes a bonded commercial winery, a microbiology lab, a research library, classrooms, and a 3,800-square-foot assembly hall designed to host industry events.

In her keynote address for the grand opening, Perdue praised the positive impact the Center will have on the state's economy. Perdue noted that North Carolina is 7th in the nation in wine production, directly accounting for 5,700 jobs and an economic impact of almost $1 billion. There are more than 90 wineries and 400 vineyards across the state.

"This is an industry that is waking up in North Carolina. I have every reason to believe that North Carolina will become a national and international leader in wine because of the investment that you're making here, and the fact that this community college now has the infrastructure to train the workforce for the 21st century," Perdue said. "Today is a big day for North Carolina. Today is a day that will be written about in history books."

The center is named after the Shelton-Badgett family, which founded Shelton Vineyards in 1999 and played an integral role in starting SCC's Viticulture & Enology program that same year. Shelton Vineyards has grown to become one of the largest producers of wine on the east coast, spurring the development of many more wineries in the area. Both Shelton Vineyards and SCC are in the Yadkin Valley, North Carolina's first federally designated winemaking region. Many of the area's grapes are grown on former tobacco farms.

"I think this is an example of what we can do in Surry County if we all work together to create new ideas, new ventures and new ways to make money," Ed Shelton said at the grand opening. "The key is to make a profit and create jobs, and as long as we can do that, we have a great future here."

Click here for more.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Gazetteer fun: J-L

The highly entertaining and educational North Carolina Gazetteer has been updated for the first time since it was first published in 1968.

We figured we would highlight some of our favorites from the book every now and then. This version will look at random listings that begin with letters, J, K and L. (Click here to see some older versions.) There are some 2,ooo-plus listings in the Gazetteer, so feel free to search for your own faves.

Japan, former community in n(orth)e(ast) Graham County on forks of Tobacco and Panther creeks. Est. about 1908 as supply center for surrounding lumbering camps. Named for "Japan clover" (Lespedeza striata) growing in the area. During World War II, local residents began calling it MacArthur for Gen. Douglas MacArthur, but the post office name was never changed. Inundated by water of Fontana Lake, 1944.

Kill'em Swamp rises in s(outh)e(ast) Hertford County and flows n(orth)w(est) into Chinkapin Creek.

Longs Delight appears on the Ogilby map, 1671, near the upper portion of the Cape Fear River. It was a name assigned probably for Capt. Anthony Long, member of an expedition led by Capt. William Hilton in 1663 to explore the lower Cape Fear region. See also Lockwoods Folly Inlet ... which states that [f]requently in the seventeenth century, however, the word "folly" was used in the sense of the French folie (delight; favorite abode), and it formed a part of the name of English estates.

Friday, November 05, 2010

N.C. still rockin' when it comes to business

Gov. Beverly Perdue's office announced yesterday that for the ninth time in a decade, North Carolina has been named the state with the best climate for business "by the highly regarded Site Selection magazine."

As part of the ranking, the magazine surveys corporate executives that help businesses select new locations. This year, those executives ranked the Tar Heel state as the top for ease of doing business. The magazine cited Gov. Bev Perdue’s efforts to recruit business and create jobs.

“People across the state and many businesses around the country know that I’ll take any call and go anywhere to bring a business to our state or expand a business or create a small business in North Carolina,” Gov. Perdue said in the magazine’s cover story. “We have been very aggressive, and that has paid off.”

The accolades for the Tar Heel state led a columnist for the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times to urge his state’s next governor to learn a lesson from North Carolina’s business climate.

“Other states deemed supreme in this country for their business climate already boast histories of intimately involved, gung-ho business governors. Exhibit 1 is North Carolina Gov. Bev Perdue,” wrote Robert Trigaux, who went on to cite North Carolina’s repeated top rankings by Site Selection. “And a big reason North Carolina again dominated the survey is that Perdue, since taking office in 2009, has continued the Tar Heel State mantra of aggressively selling her state to the business world.”

Is it winter already?

"Just five days into November and snow has already fallen in the North Carolina mountains," says the Charlotte Observer.

First Warn Storm Team Chief Meteorologist Brad Panovich says elevations above 3,000 feet could get 2 to 4 inches of snow through Saturday.

Snow is not in the forecast for the Charlotte area, but a freeze warning is in effect until 9 a.m. Saturday. A cold air mass will move into the area tonight, dropping temperatures into the lower 30s across much of the region.

The high temperature on Saturday will barely reach 50 degrees.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Quick hits: USDOT awards money for high-speed rail, and N.C. youth are not engaged

USDOT awards $26.1M to Atlanta-Charlotte high-speed rail

"Atlanta Rep. Hank Johnson (GA-04)announced this week that the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) is awarding the Atlanta-Charlotte high-speed rail (HSR) line a $4.1 million grant. The grant is to be split amongst the three states involved in the project: Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina. Funds will be allocated towards an intermodal high-speed intercity rail corridor study, where Georgia will act as the lead state, according to the Examiner.

"The Atlanta-Charlotte HSR line is also receiving a $22 million US DOT grant, amounting to a total of $26.1 million. The multi-state funding is geared towards improving the nation's rail infrastructure and creating an efficient high-speed intercity passenger rail system.

"A high-speed rail system is intended to act as an alternative transportation mode to the nation's highway network, thereby easing traffic congestion. Other benefits of HSR include fostering economic development and creating jobs, enhancing livability in both urban and rural communities, reducing dependency on foreign oil, and alleviating air pollution. ..."

Report finds N.C.'s youth not engaged

"The North Carolina Civic Health Index 2010 indicates that the state has the potential to flex its civic might, but there are serious gaps in civic participation that are cause for concern, said Kelley O’Brien, director of the North Carolina Civic Education Consortium. The consortium is based in the School of Government at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. O’Brien shared the results of the index recently at the North Carolina League of Municipalities’ 2010 Youth Summit in Winston-Salem.

"North Carolina is one of 13 states and four cities that partnered with the National Conference on Citizenship to assess state and local civic health with the purpose of documenting — and ultimately improving — civic engagement. The index includes recommendations for individuals, policymakers, educators and community organizations about ways to improve the state’s civic health. ..."