Union County residents asked to help ‘Connect Our Future’

Charles Warner Editor

October 6, 2013

UNION COUNTY — A workshop scheduled for Tuesday will enable the residents of Union County to help plan for the growth of the county over the next 40 years.

CONNECT Our Future is an initiative that deals with the future growth of a 14-county region that includes the North Carolina counties of Anson, Cabarrus, Cleveland, Gaston, Iredell, Lincoln, Mecklenburg, Rowan, Stanly, and Union, and the South Carolina counties of Chester, Lancaster, Union, and York. The region’s population — which currently stands at approximately 2.4 million — is projected to grow by 50 percent in 20 years and to double within 40 years and the goal of CONNECT Our Future is to develop plans that will enable the region to successfully cope with and benefit from such growth.

The initiative is being undertaken by the Catawba Regional Council of Governments which serves the South Carolina counties and the Centralia Council of Governments which serves the North Carolina counties. The initiative is a reflection of the economy of the region which is centered on the urban area of Charlotte, N.C., linking it with the ring of suburban communities that includes Rock Hill in South Carolina and Gastonia in North Carolina and rural areas like Union County in South Carolina and Lincoln County in North Carolina. The economic interconnectedness of the region means that all of its constituent counties will be affected by the growth that is expected to occur over the next four decades and officials in both councils of government have undertaken the CONNECT Our Future initiative to solicit public input on how to deal with its impact on the region in the years ahead.

That input is being solicited through a series of events sponsored by the councils of government, the latest of which will be a community growth workshop from 9-11 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 8 at the Union County Advanced Technology Center, 1401 Furman L. Fendley Highway, Union. Cole McKinney, Regional Initiatives Coordinator for Catawba Regional, said the workshop will be an opportunity for Union County residents to weigh in on what they see for the future of their community.

“The primary purpose of the workshop is to get input from the public on their vision for growth in the Union County area over the next 40 years,” McKinney said. “They will have a map of Union County to work with and on the map they will be able to designate the areas they see industrial, residential, and commercial growth taking place over the next 40 years.

“We also want them to address issues of infrastructure including recreational facilities, transportation needs, and conservation areas,” he said. “We want as much of the general public there as possible to share with us their vision of these and other issues affecting their community and the growth it will experience over the next 40 years.”

Even though the initiative is concerned with the growth of the Connect Our Future region as a whole, McKinney said preparing for that growth must be carried out at the local level. He encouraged Union County residents of all walks of life to attend the workshop and collaborate with their fellow residents in the next step in that planning process.

“Our region is expected to grow by another 1.8 million people and 860,000 jobs by 2050,” McKinney said. “The goal of the CONNECT effort is to plan for growth by local choice — not chance. We’re encouraging Union residents to invest two hours at a workshop and make a difference in the county for the next 40 years. October 8 will be a great chance to meet and work with people from across the county and to think about the future you want to see for Union.”

McKinney said that the ideas discussed and the map developed at the workshop will be combined with the results of workshops conducted in the other 13 counties and information already gathered from across the region. He said this will be used to develop four or five possible scenarios for growth across the region with the scenarios reflecting the different perspectives and desired outcomes shared by the residents of the Connect Our Future counties. The scenarios will then be brought back to the communities for review and, McKinney, use as a possible guide for future planning.

To register to participate in the Oct. 8 community growth workshop in Union, please visit http://bit.ly/UnionCountySC. For more information on CONNECT Our Future, please visit http://www.connectourfuture.org.

Editor Charles Warner can be reached at 864-427-1234, ext. 14, or by email at cwarner@civitasmedia.com.