ACC Day: The Impact and Importance of Community Colleges

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By: Mac Williams
President, Alamance Chamber

In a civic club meeting I recently attended, the speaker asked, “how many people in the room have taken classes at ACC, graduated from ACC, or know someone who has?  Raise your hand.”

Everyone in the room raised their hand.  Everyone.

To me, this was a small but telling indication of the impact and importance of local community colleges in general and our beloved Alamance Community College specifically.

The meeting attendees didn’t just raise their hands, they did so with enthusiasm because (I’m sure) each had a personal story or knew of someone with a story of how ACC impacted them. I’ll share my story in a moment but first, here are a few general thoughts about the impacts of ACC in Alamance County.

  • ACC provides affordable, accessible education for so many of our local students and adults. With a degree or certificate from ACC, many more doors of opportunity are opened for a new career, better job, or continued education.
  • ACC is a unifying entity for the entire community. Alamance County has a population of about 160,000 which is a small county when compared to our metropolitan neighbors.  We are further divided into even smaller parts by virtue of having nearly a dozen separate incorporated jurisdictions as well as the unincorporated areas of the county which, for the most part, those citizens want to remain that way.  Regardless of which individual jurisdiction each of us calls “home”, ACC has proven itself a common focal point for making our collective county a better place; and, we have responded by approving bond issues to improve/enhance ACC every time we’ve been asked to do so.
  • ACC is, in itself, an economic engine. With around 1000 employees, ACC is one of the larger employers in the county and generates a large payroll which, in turn, circulates through the local economy as employees (and the college) purchase goods and services from local businesses.
  • ACC is a critical partner in our local economic development efforts to recruit new industry and help existing industry to expand. Which is where my story comes in.

Several years ago, a local industry made known to us (chamber staff) their struggles with finding people with certain skills while, at the same time, worried about being able to replace their current but aging workforce as people retired.  ACC leadership and staff worked with the company, the chamber, and others and set up what has now become the mechatronics program which is the central element of the Career Accelerator Program, CAP, our local apprenticeship program.  This kind of responsiveness to local industry needs is why I am grateful to have ACC as a partner in our local economic development efforts.

This Friday (August 23) is Celebrate ACC Day.  ACC has certainly given us much to celebrate and, I’m certain, the same can be said in the other 57 places in North Carolina where there is a local community college.

Thanks ACC for all you do and for all the stories you help create.