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Thomas A. Betts: Pipeline means jobs, opportunity for region

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Thomas A. Betts

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BY THOMAS A. BETTS

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Growing up in Eastern North Carolina, I remember a time when our towns, communities and counties were flourishing. It was an idyllic place to grow up, and I had dreams of a similar life for my children and grandchildren.

Unfortunately, times changed. Jobs were lost. Poverty increased. Friends and family members moved away to pursue better opportunities. I stayed, and I've made it an important personal and professional mission to seek and support opportunities for my community and region.

I've been supportive of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline for a number of years, and I'm thankful that this important project is officially becoming a reality.

There have been questions about how this pipeline will positively impact Eastern North Carolina. Will it really bring jobs? Will it really lead to economic development opportunities, specifically manufacturing? It is really the opportunity of our time for our communities, for Eastern North Carolina, and for our entire state?

Yes. I am confident that it will bring all these benefits and more.

It is well known and acknowledged that manufacturers are looking for natural gas as a top criterion for selecting a site. In fact, Eastern North Carolina has been eliminated (or completely passed over) from companies' consideration sets because of the lack of access to natural gas.

Opponents ask: Why not transport the natural gas from Western North Carolina's Transcontinental Pipeline (the only source of natural gas in the state)? The fact of the matter is, not only is Transco nearly fully tapped, but it would cost an exorbitant amount of money to transport additional natural gas from the western to the eastern part of the state. Plus, we would continue to place all of our energy eggs in one basket, which is not smart for reliability reasons.

The bottom line is, Eastern North Carolina needs the ACP. The clean, reliable, competitively priced natural gas it will provide will help us attract more business, create thousands of jobs and increase tax revenues — which means creating opportunities to keep our friends and families at home instead of leaving because of the lack of jobs. The ACP is critical to support our growing state and economy, specifically to meet the growing energy needs and serve new major industrial customers in Eastern North Carolina.

I'm especially excited about the jobs the ACP will create, both directly and indirectly. The construction of the pipeline will support more than 4,400 jobs. Yes, these specific jobs are temporary. But all construction jobs are temporary. Have you ever heard of a 30-year-long construction job on the same project? A career in construction, by design, is made up of dozens of different projects. When one is complete, you move on to the next. I would rather see thousands of North Carolinians employed for multiple years than none at all.

That's not even the half of it. The ACP has entered into a partnership with community colleges along the route, including Nash Community College, to develop an apprenticeship program. Neither the community colleges nor the students enrolled will pay a dime.

The free course will offer training on safety regulations as well as training in areas such as rigging, signaling, first aid, tool identification, flagging, shoring, trenching, asphalt paving and erosion control. The jobs available from this training offer great pay, experience and benefits. Men and women will have the opportunity to train to go work on the ACP. And, when the ACP is complete, they will have the training necessary to build into a career for many projects to come.

The Atlantic Coast Pipeline means jobs, community and county growth, economic opportunity and great progress for the future of Eastern North Carolina. I say yes, and call on the community to do the same. Thank you for giving Eastern North Carolina the chance at such a strong, needed opportunity.

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