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North Meck Group Forms To Help Improve Economic Mobility

About 200 people from the towns of Davidson, Cornelius and Huntersville gathered at Cornelius Town Hall on Thursday night to formally launch a regional campaign to improve economic opportunity.

The meeting of the North Mecklenburg Economic Mobility Collaborative attracted a diverse group of mayors and other town officials, clergy, nonprofit leaders and businesspeople as well as low-income residents. They came to help figure how people can work together to improve prospects for low-income neighbors.

"We're looking at affordable housing, we're looking at access to affordable health care, cradle to grave education, availability of quality childcare, and preschool, and then local living wage jobs, and adequate transportation, as well -- which ties all of it together," said John Quinn of Cornelius, a steering committee member. 

Quinn said the group hopes to bring ideas to local elected officials and to bring together government and nonprofits to solve specific problems in those focus areas.  

The three north Mecklenburg towns have a population of about 100,000, which is about 10 times what it was in 1990.  A study for the towns last year found that nearly half of the area's households have annual incomes of more than $100,000 a year, but 27% are below $50,000.    

The program included short talks by three people who overcame poverty and other obstacles to achieve their careers: Karina Runyan of Novant Health; Darryl Bego, who founded a Charlotte after-school program called Youth Development Initiatives; and Don Thomas, community impact director at Leading on Opportunity Charlotte. 

Don Thomas of Leading on Opportunity in Charlotte urged the group to work together to create space for "power-sharing" with low-income residents.
Credit David Boraks / WFAE
Don Thomas of Leading on Opportunity in Charlotte urged the group to work together to create space for "power-sharing" with low-income residents.

Thomas said he also has been working with communities in west Charlotte and east Charlotte to come up with community-driven solutions to the lack of economic mobility in Charlotte. He said collaboration builds trust and "allows us to co-labor, to co-think, to co-create with diverse perspectives."  

He urged the group: "Let's produce something that allows and facilitates space for power-sharing, so we can all benefit from that collaboration." 

The group hopes to get there by regular meetings of several working groups to begin soon. 


North Mecklenburg Economic Mobility Collaborative website, https://northmeckemc.org/about/

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David Boraks is a veteran journalist who covers climate change for WFAE. See more at www.wfae.org/climate-news. He also has covered housing and homelessness, energy and the environment, transportation and business.