DURHAM — The chairman of the Board of Durham County Commissioners called for a local summit to empower young black males in his state of the county speech this week.
The summit, in response to President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper Initiative, would bring together people from all over the community to look for successful programs from across the country to emulate in Durham, Chairman Michael Page said.
He hopes to bring together business leaders, faith leaders, single parents, young people and representatives of higher education in Durham County to discuss the problems that too often bring young men of color into contact with law enforcement.
He also called on leaders to provide a clear path for economic prosperity for all, including job training and internships.
Page called Durham “A Tale of Two Cities.”
Despite booming areas, there are also too many areas with “embedded poverty, blight and economic disenfranchisement, crime and an ungrateful sense of hopelessness,” he said.
“I say yes, progress has occurred, but more work is required if we are to eliminate poverty.”
Page announced that the county will join Mayor Bill Bell’s “neighborhood by neighborhood” campaign to fight poverty in Durham.
According to census data, more than 44,000 of Durham’s 230,000 residents are impoverished.
“Together we will make a difference in the lives of others,” Page said.
On the brighter side of the picture in Durham, Page said, 2013 provided the county the chance to boost the economy through providing economic incentives to several corporations to build or expand facilities here.
He noted some of those highlights, including:
• a $400,000 incentive to bioMerieux to create 44 new jobs;
• a $375,000 incentive to Syngenta to create 100 to 200 jobs;
• a $1 million incentive to Purdue Pharma to create 100 jobs;
• a $200,000 incentive to GE Aviation to create 50 jobs
• a $900,000 incentive to AW North Carolina to create 56 jobs.
Page also noted that 2013 was a year of change in Durham County, with longtime county manager Michael Ruffin announcing his retirement.
The commissioners have selected Wendell Davis, N.C. Central’s vice chancellor for administration and finance and a former deputy county manager in Durham, to take over as the new county manager April 14.
Other changes for the county last year that Page noted included the March opening of the new courthouse, including a 900-space parking deck, and the November opening of the 300,000 square-foot Durham County Health and Human Services building that combined several related departments that were spread into various locations into one site.
Also a highlight for the county for 2013 and into this year, Page said, was the Social Services Department’s navigation of complications from the state’s NC Fast program and the partial federal government shutdown.
Page noted that in 2014, the county is headed into its third year with its Strategic Plan, with its five goals of community prosperity, health, safety, environmental responsibility and accountable, efficient and visionary government.