PLEASANT GARDEN — The future of southeast Guilford County is all about connections. Connections to better broadband, to water, to community services.
All of those things can make this rural part of the county a thriving, healthy and well-educated place with a bright future, said a group of people who spoke Monday to several commissioners and staffers.
They had gathered in the bright gym of Southeast Guilford High School to talk about how they would spend an infusion of federal money from the American Rescue Plan.
Guilford County will receive $104 million that it can spend over the next five years to move beyond the challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Those who spoke Monday told of the economic and social toll the pandemic is having on children, business people and seniors in this area of small towns and communities.
Ron Surgeon, Pleasant Garden’s mayor pro tem, told the 20 people gathered in folding chairs on the shiny wood floor that his town is ready for a “reset.” And economic development, he said, is one way to heal the people who have suffered during the past 18 months.
One woman said the people in this part of the county have suffered mental health challenges during the pandemic with few resources to get help. Broadband internet could be one way to connect them to remote service providers.
Growth can only come to a thriving community, added one woman affiliated with the YMCA, and broadband can help young people maintain their access to remote learning.
But one businessman said the AT&T internet he uses to work from home in the insurance business is barely adequate. And he believes with regional leaders promoting the Greensboro-Randolph Megasite just to the south, reliable broadband will be essential to attracting a major industry.
He and others said future workers will need places to live, but water and sewer services are limited outside the Greensboro city limits.
Several people urged the commissioners to think big and work with Greensboro officials and the area’s other communities to find ways to expand water and sewer access to the undeveloped land that is waiting for growth.
Melvin “Skip” Alston, who chairs the Guilford County Board of Commissioners, sat at a table at the front of the group and said before the end of the one-hour discussion: “We just need to listen to our bosses. And you are our bosses. So your time here, it means a lot.”
And the commissioners, Alston said, are deliberate about holding community meetings in every corner of the county before making decisions about how to spend the money.
The process is likely to take months, Alston said.
Contact Richard M. Barron at 336-373-7371 and follow @BarronBizNR on Twitter.