Category Archives: Uncategorized

Goodbye for Now



Just recently, April 2, Digging Deeper acknowledged the completion of our third year.

During the latter part of our 2016 ,we spent lots of time creating our Five Year Plan which in the end was not good enough. If we are to continue we must bring a more powerful punch while expecting our readers to “Do something, now that you know.”

We will now discontinue the articles written mostly by local knowledgeable writers. Many, I know, will miss this. So will I.

What ever evolves will likely be more demanding for the readers to offer initiatives for continuous improvements in our community, less time requirement for me and, maybe less cost.

Part of my decision making is directly connected to my recent hip surgery. Progress goes well, but it is draining my energy. Yes, I know life will return to normal, but in the meantime I have been ineffective for the past 4+ weeks and it ain’t over yet. For sure I expect to walk the streets of NYC again!

Thank you for supporting Digging Deeper during the past three years. Please keep one eye open to follow our future.


Bill Seabrook

P.S. I do plan to keep the Digging Deeper name, a good one I think, and consider using it with future work.



The Golden Rule

SEABROOK SAYS:  It’s quite likely that very few in Gaston are aware of the teaching, training and work that go into the job of sheriff.  Here are comments on what works for Sheriff Cloninger.  NOW THAT YOU KNOW, WHAT WILL YOU DO?

I can remember as a child my mother, Mary Jo Cloninger, teaching me the Golden Rule, which is “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” She had to use a “hickory switch” to emphasize the value of the Golden Rule on me. But as I have matured, I have come to appreciate these simple words.

Since having the honor to be the Sheriff of Gaston County, I have made the Golden Rule part of our philosophy at the Gaston County Sheriff’s Office. In my interviews with new employees, we discuss the Golden Rule and its value in serving the citizens of our county. I explain that we should treat everyone as we would want our own mother, father, brother or sister treated by any other Sheriff’s Office personnel in the same situation. It is my belief, that if my employees and I will try our best to follow the Golden Rule, then we will better serve the citizens of our county. Hopefully, we will reduce complaints and dissatisfaction with the jobs that we perform for the public.

But just take a moment and think what the effect would be on Gaston County if all of us just tried every day to follow the Golden Rule. Would we not have less conflicts and have a greater respect for one another? Would there not be a significant decrease in crime? Would Gaston County not become the greatest place in the world to live and raise a family?

I hope all of us will try to make Gaston County the envy of the whole world by trying to live everyday by the Golden Rule. We need to encourage all our friends, family and acquaintances to try to live by this rule also!

Alan Cloninger
Sheriff, Gaston County

How Do We Measure Up?

SEABROOK SAYS: How are we doing? Our health department does a superb job of measuring progress or, in some cases, the reverse. This article is a little longer than the usual. Regardless, take an extra minute to better understand the health situations right her where you live. NOW THAT YOU KNOW, WHAT WILL YOU DO?

2015 Gaston County Health Report Card

Each spring, Gaston DHHS releases a report card to help summarize the data behind Gaston County’s health. The following is a summary of this year’s report, available online at

How Do We Measure Up?

Based on county-level community and social data, our County has earned an overall health grade of B. This grade indicates that our residents are collectively making progress towards establishing and living healthy lives.

Chronic Disease
Cancer, heart disease, and lung disease are historically among the top leading causes of death among Gaston County residents. Gaston County has a grade of D in the area of Chronic Disease due to the increase in the heart and lung disease death rates. While there have been minor declines in those reporting having diabetes or being disabled, these gains do not, however, move the needle on our Chronic Disease indicators overall.

Child and Women’s Health
Healthy and stable relationships and environments are vital to the well-being of children. Over the years, programs and support have expanded in a way to further support the one of the most precious and vulnerable populations in our county. Remarkably, of the two is our infant death rate which has decreased by 25%.

The greatest success in women’s health in Gaston County has come through the: a)reduction in teen births dropping from 38 teen births per 1,000 teens to just under 30 teen births per 1,000 teens and b) the increases in women who have received a recent mammogram.

Environmental Health
Gaston County’s air quality has remained safe for sensitive groups for several years. This means that residents suffering from respiratory issues, youth, older adults, or those who are active outdoors were allowed to maintain their level of outdoor activity.

Behavioral Health & Communicable Disease
Behavioral health refers to the individual behaviors that often result in some social or health outcome. Suicides in the county have increased by over 35% from 2013 to 2014. Gaston County DHHS has made it a priority to improve the state of mental health in our county by advocating for additional resources and integrating mental health into public health practices.

Syphilis and Chlamydia disease rates have seen the highest rates of increase from 2013 to 2014 while HIV and Gonorrhea rates have begun to decline.

Socioeconomic Factors
Finally, the most challenging factor to influence is social and economic factors. While the county earned a grade of C, this doesn’t mean that our residents are not prospering—it means that the measured indicators are remaining relatively stable. Nonetheless, more residents are able to secure health insurance than in 2013. Of note, the rate of unemployment has decreased by 50% since 2013.

Based on data from our 2015 Quality of Life Survey, respondents stated that they appreciated that Gaston County felt like an intimate community and was slower paced than the city. However, a select group of respondents stated that they would like to an increase in jobs and business development in the county.

The Community Connection
Every three years we conduct a Community Health Assessment and write a report on Gaston County’s health and our leading causes of death, disability, and illness. We do this by using state data and conducting the Gaston County Quality of Life Survey, with a diverse sample of the population.

Through a combination of data from our 2015 Gaston County Quality of Life Survey, strategic planning data from the community, and data from the NC State Center for Health Statistics, our Board of Health has selected the following health priorities for 2015-2020:
• Integration of Mental Health Resources
• Childhood Obesity
• Improved Family Functioning
• Senior Livability and Support

You can get involved!
• Find an area or health issues that interests you.
• Contact us to let us know that you would like to help us.
• Spread the word! Ask your family, friends, or coworkers if they would like to get involved.
• Feel free to check our website for updates on our progress.

Shambreya Burrell
Public Health & Human Services Analyst
Gaston County Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS)


Alliance for Growth Plan – Action and Progress

Seabrook Says: Mark Cramer and Joel Long, the GGDC’s new chairman, bring you right up to date on their work. This work is most important and deserves your staying abreast of it all. Now that you know, what will you do?

In the fall of 2014, the Greater Gaston Development Corporation (GGDC) enlisted over 100 community leaders to develop the Alliance for Growth plan. The goals of the plan were straightforward: (1) stimulate job growth, and (2) increase the County’s tax base.  A little over one year ago, the GGDC Board of Trustees prioritized the top action items in the plan’s seven strategic focus areas.  We are pleased to report on important progress on the plan’s highest priority items.

With the strong support of the business community, the Gaston-Cleveland-Lincoln transportation planning organization included a new Catawba River Crossings project in regional road plans.  The Alliance for Growth’s highest priority, this project includes new bridges across the Catawba and South Fork Rivers and related roadways connecting to New Hope Road and across the South Fork and Catawba Rivers to Charlotte-Douglas International Airport.  Now in Raleigh for “scoring” under DOT funding rules, it will require determined and sustained efforts to build support for and speed up the project.

The Alliance for Growth conducted a survey that indicated the perception of Gaston County by residents, nonresidents and developers was a problem. To address this challenge, the GGDC secured governmental and private commitments of over $900,000 to fund a 3-year Image and Branding Campaign for Gaston County.  The PR, marketing and branding firm of Ferebee-Lane & Co. will conduct the campaign.  Conceptual and creative work on the campaign is now underway and the campaign should start to roll-out in the second quarter of 2016.

The Gaston County Commission has approved two important initiatives by the Gaston County Economic Development Commission that support Alliance for Growth goals. The first is the creation of a $120,000 public-private site development fund that is being used to bring high-priority sites closer to being readily developable. The second is a 50,000 to 100,000 square feet spec building now under construction in Gaston Technology Park.  Available land and spec buildings are critical to attract new business.

Outstanding progress was made during 2015 on important Alliance for Growth workforce preparedness priorities by Gaston County Schools, Gaston College, the Gaston Regional Chamber and Gaston companies.  The Career and Technical Education Oversight Committee, which included 4 business representatives, made a number of important recommendations to improve career and technical education. Gaston College started the first N.C. Community College-registered apprenticeship program in North Carolina, Apprenticeship 321, and it also broke ground on its Center for Advanced Manufacturing.  The Educators in the Workplace program launched during the summer and 20 Gaston County school teachers and guidance counselors spent 5 days learning about 8 Gaston County companies.  As 2015 drew to a close, Gaston County was named as one of only seven counties to be recognized as an NCWorks Certified Work Ready Community.

2015 also saw critical progress on establishing a hybrid business incubator and Gigabit demonstration site to stimulate Gaston County entrepreneurship, innovation and job growth.  With Gaston County committing funding of $975,000, the leadership of the Gaston Gigabit Committee and the Alliance for Growth Entrepreneur/Small Business Committee are taking the necessary steps to get the hybrid business incubator up and running.

On October 13, the Global Vision Leaders Group met in Belmont.  This first meeting outside of Charlotte brought together over 120 business, government, educational and non-profit leaders from the two-state region for discussions on how to make the Charlotte region a global leader in trade and investment. In addition, the GGDC has taken the first steps to include Gaston County in a master planning effort for development surrounding the Charlotte-Douglas International Airport, the greatest driver of growth in our region.

Much has been accomplished but much remains to be done. Continued progress on these and other priorities during 2016 and beyond will require even broader collaboration and deeper commitment.  Please join with the GGDC, the Alliance for Growth and our many partner organizations to move Gaston County forward.  Together, we can do this.


Joel Long                                                                             Mark Cramer

GGDC Chairman for 2016                                                   GGDC Executive Director


The Jobs War and Gaston County

SEABROOK SAYS: Our article writer today served as Superintendent of Gaston County Schools. He is semi-retired now as he continues to give to Gaston County. His subject is one that touches two hot topics: jobs and leadership.  NOW THAT YOU KNOW, WHAT WILL YOU DO?

The Coming Jobs War is a book written by Jim Clifton, Chairman and CEO of Gallup, Incorporated. The book is a result of the findings of the Gallup World Poll which measures the thoughts and feelings of the world’s 7 billion citizens on global issues. The title of the book comes from the key finding of the World Poll. Clifton calls the finding one of the most important discoveries Gallup has ever made. That finding says that whether in Cairo, Berlin, Los Angeles, or Istanbul, the single most dominant thought on people’s minds is having a good job. The Coming Jobs War outlines what Clifton calls “an all-out war for good jobs” and his book examines America’s ability to win this war. The final chapter of the book predicts that for America “failing the coming jobs war will be easy, and winning will be hard.” The book ends, however, with the author noting that “the United States of America is an exceptional country with exceptional people” and “once again, against the odds, she must rise up and win.”

Clifton suggests that a key to winning the jobs war is meeting the challenge on a community by community basis rather than depending on state and federal solutions to create jobs and build a qualified workforce. This common sense approach recognizes the role of individual states and the federal government but puts the bulk of responsibility for winning the jobs war on local leadership. If Jim Clifton is right and local leadership is the key to job creation and building a qualified workforce, how well is Gaston County poised to face this challenge? My answer to this question is that we are in great shape to do our part! There are two primary reasons for my optimism.

First, local leadership in Gaston County recognizes the importance of job creation and workforce development in building a brighter future for our community. Our leaders have accepted this challenge. The Gaston Regional Chamber has established workforce development as a priority area. The GGDC is doing great work in promoting the image of our county. Gaston College has implemented exciting new programs like Apprenticeship 321 to impact workforce development. The local school board has invited the business community to participate in a comprehensive look at district Career and Technical Education programs. Gaston County Schools has partnered with the Gaston Regional Chamber in developing and implementing “Educators in the Workplace” which offers teachers greater insight into jobs and careers in Gaston County. Our Economic Development Commission is exploring new and innovative approaches to bring new businesses to our county and the Workforce Development Board now provides comprehensive job fair opportunities on a monthly basis. Finally, our local NCWorks office has completely revamped its efforts to help job seekers gain tools and experiences needed to find meaningful employment. All of these workforce development partners understand that business as usual will not get Gaston County where it needs to go and they are looking for better ways to meet the jobs challenge.

Second, leadership in Gaston County understands the importance of working together. This spirit of cooperation was clearly evident in Gaston County being named one of the first Work Ready Communities in NC. While other counties have struggled to meet the high standards set for this program, leaders in Gaston County combined efforts to meet and exceed each and every requirement. By working together, elected leaders, business leaders, and workforce development partners gave our community an economic development advantage enjoyed by only six other counties in our state. This spirit of cooperation will serve us well in meeting the job creation and workforce development challenges out ahead.

In closing, I would paraphrase Jim Clifton by saying, Gaston County is an exceptional county made up of exceptional people – and we will do our part in winning the war for jobs!

Reeves McGlohon
Former Superintendent
Gaston County Schools

Value of Small Business to Gaston County

SEABROOK SAYS: Here is a refreshing look at Small Business in Gaston County. You should be pleased to conclude that small business is good for the owners and good for the community. We would all do well to support our small business. NOW THAT YOU KNOW, WHAT WILL YOU DO?

In Gaston County’s industrial heyday, textile manufacturing was KING. A strong, supporting industry was metal working and machine shops. These locally-owned shops machined and provided replacement parts for all types of production equipment.    From replacement shafts, collars, bearing housings, spindles, motor mounts, etc., the textile mills relied on this group of small businesses to keep their machinery running so they could meet their customers shipping requirements.  This group of shop owners and their employees also provided an avenue for the design, development, and manufacture of new parts and equipment as technologies evolved.

In the early to mid-1980’s, textiles started migrating out of Gaston County and the USA. As the textile customers left, our community of small business owners were left with little or no business.  However through ingenuity, the will to continue providing jobs while meeting customer needs, and by embracing the newest in technologies many shops were creative and sought business in other sectors of the economy.  Industrial machinery manufacturing, metalworking machinery manufacturing, engines, turbines, power transmission equipment manufacturing, general purpose machinery manufacturing, and motor vehicle parts manufacturing were all potential replacements for the lost textile business.  An English language proverb “Necessity is the Mother of Invention” is certainly apropos for the county’s machine shops.

What is the Impact of Small Business on Gaston County?

The Small Business Administration has indicated that businesses with fewer than 500 employees can be considered a small business. Certainly there are quite a few small businesses in the county. In fact, the most recent Gaston County Business Statistics indicate there are 2,980 small business firms employing 29,923 with an annual payroll of $987.8 Million with an estimated revenue of $4.97 Billion. Of these 2,980 small businesses, there are 49 machine shops in Gaston County employing 3,108 individuals.  As these 49 shops grow and find new segments to provide products and services for, you may ask what is being done to support this growth.

What is being done in Gaston County?

Recognizing the importance of manufacturing as a crucial component to the growth of the region, both local and regional economic planners have identified advanced manufacturing as a key sector to target. Also, the renovation of Gaston College’s PTI building and the construction of a Center for Advanced Manufacturing (CAM) have received strong financial support from local, state, and federal funders. Gaston County has allocated $3.3 million in county bond funding.  The Golden LEAF Foundation has contributed $500,000 towards the renovation of the PTI building and the United States Economic Development Administration has preliminarily allocated $1.5 million in support of the project.

Combined, these two projects will offer training in Computer Integrated Machining and a second Computer Numerical Control (CNC) lab as well as a Center for Advanced Welding to include orbital and plasma arc welding. The CAM will house many of the more advanced or technology-rich industrial training programs the college offers.  In addition to meeting rooms, offices, and classrooms, designated laboratory/ training spaces will include: Advanced Manufacturing (cross-training and demonstration lab), Mechatronics, Robotics, Computer-Aided Design (CAD), Specialized Processing (Chemicals and Plastics), Industrial Instrumentation, Nuclear Technologies, Alternative Energy (a photovoltaic array and geothermal heating/cooling system will be incorporated into CAM.)  Once these two projects are completed, Gaston County and its base of small businesses, particularly the machine shops, will be in a better position to meet the growing and diverse needs of business and industry.

What can you do?

Continue to support our local business owners by buying their products and services and referring your friends, business associates, and neighbors to also support our local small businesses. But, do not stop there!  Encourage the existing small business owners to look at alternative avenues of revenue that may enhance their existing products and services, or, in some cases, may totally help the small business owner set a new course to a more profitable business that will hire even more of our citizens.

Brad Rivers
Director of Gaston College’s Small Business Center





We Must Keep Trying

SEABROOK SAYS: The dialogue in Gaston County related to Jews, Christians and Muslims is a hot topic right now – and that is as it should be. Through energetic dialogue, new understandings will be reached and needed changed will quite likely occur. Enter the dialogue starting now:

I am responding to the Jim Pass letter that appeared in the Gaston Gazette on December 30, 2015. I want to thank him for the letter since we need to continue a dialogue on religious issues in hopes that a solution can be found.

Mr. Pass basically concludes that Judaism, Christianity and Islam have such contradictory beliefs that there is no way to reconcile the three religions. He may be right but that is no reason to avoid the joint study, dialogue and understanding. All three faiths start with the uniform belief in monotheism – one god.  Christianity and Islam recognize Jesus as a great prophet of God.  The Jewish Messiah issue prohibits the Jews from accepting Jesus, who is one of their own.

There is no question that each faith traces its origin back to Abraham so there is common ground. The biggest obstacles that I see are the sacred writings.  The Bible and Quran were written 1,500 to 2,500 years ago in a violent, primitive time and in cultures completely foreign to the 21st century. Both texts contain violent language and strange, outdated practices.  By meeting and discussing with Jews, Muslims and other Christians, I have found that most of each faith have relegated these passages to a time long ago with no relevance today.

The problems of today stem from the fringe element of all three faiths that use this outdated, violent language to justify many horrific acts we have witnessed recently. The letter put forth by the trialogue not only condemned terrorism, but disavowed the violent language in the Bible and the Quran. That was a huge step forward.

I will keep going, discussing and exploring because if we don’t find a way for all three faiths to live together in peace and harmony, then the world is in for a rough time. I urge Mr. Pass and all others who are concerned with the current situation to join our discussions. It can only help.

Charles Gray
Attorney, Gray, Layton, Kersh, Solomon, Furr, and Smith