2022 marked by issues involving jobs, politics, education in Randolph County

ASHEBORO — Looking for big news in Randolph County this year and it was bound to be mega-sized.

As in revolving around the Greensboro-Randolph megasite.

While the announcement that Toyota came late in 2021, the real work involving the megasite and all that will be involved with the battery manufacturing plant seemed to pick up real momentum in 2022.

This will be Toyota’s newest facility in North America.

Toyota has vowed to pour huge investment dollars into the megasite, a move that had the Randolph County Board of Commissioners on board with pushing for the project.

For the months that followed the announcement, the fallout from the news unfolded.

Construction activity at the megasite picked up steam, and that resulted in work on the nearby roadways and increases in traffic. Businesses in the Liberty area, in particular, began planning for a possible uptick in customers.

The North Carolina Department of Transportation has been involved in monitoring the situation, realizing the infrastructure in terms of roadways is bound to be impacted.

Jobs, jobs, jobs

They were both coming and going in and around Randolph County.

Layoffs and pending closing of facilities connected to United Furniture Industries were among those that reflected a decline in jobs. That Thanksgiving week development impacted several communities in the Triad.

On the flip side, Randolph County officials were involved in supporting the Wolfspeed Inc. project in nearby Chatham County. A manufacturing project there is projected to boost 1,800 new jobs across the next decade.

Political gains

It was another wave of Republicans retaining offices and moving into offices based on the November election.

Richard Hudson will remain a member of the U.S. House of Representatives after winning the election in a newly drawn district.

School board member Brian Biggs won a seat in the N.C. House.

Among the results, incumbent Sheriff Greg Seabolt won another term in Randolph County.

Turnout for early voting continued to be strong in Randolph County.

NC goes wild for the zoo

The North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro reported major increases in attendance.

Not only that, but an announcement was made about the addition of a new Asia exhibit at the zoo. That will involve a 10-acre expansion within a few years.

Zoo officials announced that for the fiscal year ending June 30 that the zoo had more than 1 million visitors. That set a record for a 12-month period.

Technology updates

Making rural areas in the county more up-to-date has been on the radar of county commissioners, and progress has been reported in that area. 

For instance, several communities in the county should benefit from fiber internet expansion to boost high-speed internet service.

A busy year for Randolph education

School officials with the Randolph County School System were busy with several projects. 

The system had to deal with busing issues, shortages of employees in some areas, and pay increases for district employees.

Superintendent Stephen Gainey also expressed pride in how
the system navigated the pandemic during the 2021-22 school year, noting it was largely a return to normal.

Also in education, Robert Shackleford Jr. retired after slightly more than 15 years as president of Randolph Community College.

Fall Festival canceled, again

It was another year without the Fall Festival in Asheboro.

After organizers cited the pandemic for nixing the huge event for two years, this time, it was the weather that interfered. Citing the impact of approaching Hurricane Ian, the board of directors of the Randolph Arts Guild canceled the 2022 version of the festival.

From hurricanes to winter storms

Weather had impacts throughout the year in Randolph County. There was winter storm Izzy that knocked out power last winter, and the leftovers from Hurricane Ian that blew through in the fall. In the summer, storms brought isolated flooding that became problematic for some residents.

By Bob Sutton