ECC symposium focuses on global trade


Staff Writer

Monday, March 19, 2018

Edgecombe County’s new industries, medical tourism and cryptocurrency were among the topics discussed at last week’s Edgecombe Community College’s annual Global Education Spring Symposium.

The event was held Thursday and Friday on Edgecombe Community College’s Rocky Mount campus. The theme of this year’s symposium was “Global Trade: Serving The World Out There From Here.”

“The Diversity and Global Connections Committee selected the theme to showcase the importance of global trade not only to our area, but to our students as we prepare them for careers,” said Carole Mehle, an ECC instructor who chairs the committee. “It is a topic that will immediately impact our students, as we have a major industry from China coming to Edgecombe County and we already have companies from Japan and Switzerland that we serve.”

Norris Tolson, CEO and president of the Carolinas Gateway Partnership, was the keynote speaker at this year’s symposium. Mehle said his presentation received the most feedback.

“We were beyond pleased and honored for him to come and share and explain what role the college can play in all the exciting developments in the area,” Mehle said. 

Mehle said Tolson also addressed some of the cultural issues that members of the business community need to understand as foreign investors come to the Twin Counties.

“Mr. Tolson spoke of how it is important in Japan that both sides win in order to continue doing business,” Mehle said. “The Chinese, he said, don't always understand that we have rules, that we cannot just go to the government and say ‘Let's do it.’”

Tolson also stressed the importance of community colleges in attracting businesses to the area. In his speech, Tolson referred to the community college system as “one of the crown jewels for North Carolina."

"It's a plus when you're already doing training for the industry,” Tolson said.

Mehle said the college already offers a tire manufacturing course.

“The college has plans for a training site on the Triangle Tire site and a Center for Innovation on the Tarboro campus and has a new global logistics curriculum planned,” Mehle said.

Other topics that drew interest at the symposium included medical tourism and crytocurrency, Mehle said.

“This was the first year crytocurrency was discussed at the symposium, but it is probably not the last,” Mehle said. “It is an emerging economic phenomenon of which our students should be aware.”

ECC instructor Stephen Herring, who spoke in the session about cryptocurrency, said many people do not understand exactly what it is and he equated it to casino chips.

"You give one person money, they give your tokens that equal the currency you gave them. You return with tokens, they give you currency to equal that value,” Herring said.

Herring also spoke about the liabilities that come with transferring money, pointing to the changing value of Bitcoin and its counterparts, making it a commodity that can gain or lose value. Some participants were concerned abou the safety of cryptocurrency in comparison with Apple Pay or PayPal.

Herring said that cryptocurrency is more secure because it is based on secure, encrypted algorithms.