Our Economy in District 96

Hello, voters!

I cannot believe it is already the end of September! Early voting for these important 2018 election starts in fewer than three weeks! Time has raced by as I have called voters, knocked on nearly 2,000 doors, communicated with you via these video messages, and done everything I can to run a successful race. I am so excited by how much support we’ve received for our campaign. Equally important, I’ve learned so much about the 96th District, about you and the issues you care about. I’ve talked with people with genuine concerns about making ends meet, with worries about how to pay medical bills, and uncertainties about being able to retire. I listen and I learn.

I have spent September outlining my ideas on what I can do as a state legislator to improve our region’s economy, bring better jobs to the area, and make sure our workforce has the training to do them.

I want to keep hearing and sharing your stories - stories I’ve heard from workers as well as small-business owners who are navigating our changing economy, and I continue to gain insight from our regional economic development experts. I want to close this month with some quick thoughts about possibilities for our area.

I am excited to work with all the public and private partners that are making a difference in the lives and livelihoods of people in the district. The Western Piedmont Council of Governments has created long-range transportation plans to make the necessary connections between our production centers. The City Walk project includes plans to bring high-speed digital internet to everyone in this area. There are innovative plans in the works to provide more affordable housing downtown and to revitalize many of the old factories here. These are just some of the policy initiatives this area needs to make us more attractive to businesses, young families, and everyone who is committed to improving our economy.

Our state’s economy is in a unique position with an historically low unemployment rate. My opponent brags that he stands for jobs, but we actually have plenty of jobs. Instead of more low-paying, low-skill jobs, the state needs to provide the infrastructure, technology, and skilled workers for the companies that make Catawba County their home. Although, we have competing priorities that will require sober non-partisan reflection, discussion, and decisions on what is best for all citizens, we must think more creatively about ways to get Catawba County the support we need to thrive.

Thanks for being here, and I hope you join me next month as I look at healthcare in the state. 

We are fast approaching the end of this hard-fought race, and I am asking you to help me cross the finish line. We need volunteers to help us work the early voting sites, to continue to knock doors, and to make phone calls. I appreciate all your support during this campaign to bring real change to North Carolina.  With your commitment to help and to vote, we will win in November.

Kim Bost
Cultivating the Workforce of the 21st Century

Hello again, voters.  I hope you all were able to take time this past weekend to stay inside and spend time in a dry place. I’m so thankful that we dodged the worst of flooding from Hurricane Florence. Now that the storm is over, I’ve seen a lot of people stepping up to help those in the Eastern part of the state who are still under water and I am reminded of the caring spirit of helping our neighbors in times of need.

I recently had a chance to visit the traveling Smithsonian exhibit entitled “The Way We Worked” at the History Museum in Newton. It documents the changes Catawba County underwent as we transitioned from an agricultural to an industrial economy. It also showed just how important the furniture, hosiery, and textile industries were to the economic development of this area.  

In 1962, 10 percent of all the nation’s hosiery and soft textiles were made in Catawba County. Almost everyone in the county worked for either a furniture or textile factory.

I have been involved with the hosiery industry in Catawba County for over 35 years, and it is what brought me here to live in the late 90’s.

This area is in the midst of another major transformation. We all have seen the impact of many flagship local furniture companies  and hosiery mills decreasing production, consolidating or moving their entire operations out of the area.

Although today, Hickory is experiencing a renaissance of new energy in the textile and furniture arenas, we are also competing to attract new kinds of companies, including fiber optics, like Corning, and data servers, such as Google. And, unfortunately, this part of Catawba County, district 96, is losing out to some of our neighbors. Lenoir, Morganton, even Maiden are successfully attracting large-scale production facilities while Hickory seems to be losing out.

Unemployment is historically low right now which means there’s a high demand for people to fill jobs. But, employers want to hire workers with the skills they need, so this is where the importance of public/private training programs comes in.

Most of us have heard of the K-64 program, but you may not know some of the things it does. Think of it like a wheel, and K-64 is in the middle. Each spoke is a different program designed to help people move forward in the economy. This groundbreaking program has helped hundreds of Catawba County workers learn real-world skills that train them for specific jobs. This type of partnership could become a model for other areas as a way to use state resources and best practices from the private sector to ensure workers are prepared for the jobs that will be available.

K-64 isn’t the only jobs-assistance resource in the area. The Western Piedmont Workforce Development Board, Workforce Solutions, and NCWorks provide all kinds of assistance to workers who are seeking skills, training, and certification, to advance in their careers.

I know, firsthand, the insecurity of losing your job to outsourcing. Unlike my opponent, a commercial real estate developer, I know what it is like to go to school for something, only to have the traditional career path shift and turn, forcing me to expand my skill-sets and change my planned course.  

It is vitally important that we seriously address developing local talent and expand on the good work already being done. We must provide incentives and infrastructure for companies to hire locals and provide opportunities to advance through the ranks of management. We must invest in our public schools so that our workers are better prepared for the jobs of the 21st century and they will see that this is a great place to make a life and raise a family.

One of the things that is clear to me, as I talk to workers, community leaders, economic development experts, and all concerned residents of the greater-Hickory area, is that people are eager to work to improve their lives but are struggling to connect their skills with the work available.

Thanks for watching. Check out my website and socials media. Please considering bringing your Hurricane Florence relief supplies to the Transportation Insight Center in Hickory for the people dealing with flooding and displacement.

Thanks for being here.



Kim Bost
Jobs vs Careers

Happy September, voters. I hope you had a great Labor Day.  I spent this very hot weekend knocking on doors and meeting workers, retirees, and students. No matter where they were on their employment journey, almost everyone I spoke with is concerned about this area’s economic future.

 

When I talk with voters about the economy, one of the first things I hear is, “There are plenty of jobs around here.” That’s true.  

 

Right now, the unemployment rate is very low, but let’s take a closer look at jobs and quality of life. I read a report recently that really surprised me. It ranked North Carolina 47th in the country for places to work based on wages and worker protections. This means that North Carolina is almost dead last in providing workers with living-wage jobs. Look at employment ads on Craigslist and Indeed. Even the jobs for people with college degrees and experience pay less than $15 per hour. If you’re paying rent and student loans and trying to build a financially secure life, you need to make more than $15 per hour.

 

Yet, college isn’t for everyone. We are fortunate that there is so much manufacturing in this area. That said, we need to make sure that factory workers have good careers. According to the Living Wage calculator, a single adult raising one child in Hickory needs to earn $22.50 per hour.  Even in households with two adults raising three children, each adult must earn more than $10 per hour to stay out of poverty. Lots of people are working more than one job to make ends meet because wages just have not kept pace with production and inflation.

 

What about worker protections?  North Carolina legislators should guarantee sick leave, a transparent process for developing work schedules, more protections against harassment and discrimination, and appropriate policies for women and families during pregnancy and after childbirth or adoption. We also have to get a handle on the number of workers who are hired through staffing agencies. It is important that Catawba County workers have a champion in Raleigh who wants to make a positive difference in their lives.

 

I will be that champion for workers.

 

I support the work of the Catawba County Economic Development Corporation, and I look forward to working with the EDC to attract the kind of manufacturing that will help to employ medium-skilled workers, technical engineers, and upper management.

 

Yet I think it’s critical as we bring companies here by offering tax breaks and worker training programs that we also have them agree to guaranteed worker protections. We want to make sure the new jobs offer good benefits, not only comprehensive healthcare but also vacation and retirement plans. We want employers to hire, train, and promote the young people who want to call this area home.

The bottom line: we want to offer workers meaningful employment, sustainable, living wages, and a better quality of life.

 

Next week, I’ll look at how we can make sure area workers have the proper training for these meaningful jobs that pay better wages. I’ll discuss the K-64 program and how we can ensure that program has the support and funding that workers and businesses need to thrive in a changing economy.

 

I was thinking about Labor day as I was walking around talking to people who were enjoying the long weekend. The lesson of that holiday is that workers can improve the conditions of their lives, like getting an 8-hour work day, protections against child labor, and safe working conditions. Those gains were made because the people elected legislators to make these important changes.

 

Please join me when I’m canvassing neighborhoods around the county.  It is so great to talk to the people in our community about what really matters. We have knocked on more than 1,000 doors and if we haven’t come to your neighborhood yet, then we plan to see you soon.

 

Thanks again for watching. Please follow me on Facebook and check out my website for ways to get involved with my campaign to work for you!

 

 

Kim Bost