WINSTON-SALEM – Higher education certainly changes the lives of individual students. But North Carolina A&T State University also uses its leverage as a growing institution to help lift East Greensboro, Chancellor Harold L. Martin Sr. said at the Social Mobility Summit 2019.
In a section of Greensboro with lower per-capita wealth than the rest of the city, Martin noted that the only Starbucks and Chick-Fil-A in East Greensboro are at N.C. A&T.
“Our students and our faculty want those amenities,” he said. “This level of inequity is unacceptable in East Greensboro.”
And A&T is doing something about it.
The university – already the nation’s largest Historically Black College or University (HBCU), with more than 12,000 students – plans to continue growing, particularly in research and graduate programs in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields that attract new industries.
As it adds STEM faculty, many of those professors will be among the most highly paid people in the community, Martin said.
“We are in a place now where we are big enough and we are bold enough where we can ask tough questions” and form partnerships with other institutions, he said. “We’ve got to be the center of driving economic prosperity in our community.”
“These investments are transforming … East Greensboro.”
The university formed the East Greensboro Renaissance Committee to push the assets of the university into the surrounding community, Martin said. He outlined a variety of projects – many involving new construction – that A&T has taken on to build up East Greensboro:
• Gateway Research Park was built by A&T in conjunction with UNC Greensboro. The park attracted 100 U.S. Department of Agriculture jobs that pay an average of $80,000 a year, Martin said. It also houses the Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering, which the General Assembly provided $100 million to build and now has 40 employees and more than 100 graduate students. It also houses Core Technology Molding Corp., which supplies molding for BMW in South Carolina. A&T offered to build a building for Core Technology, and the city agreed to provide incentives and $1.5 million for construction of the 7,000 square-foot building.
“We created jobs in East Greensboro,” Martin said.
Though there was little retail around the park, he said, a new YMCA is taking shape across the street, the city has opened a botanical garden and the State Employees Credit Union is building a branch down the street.
“There’s a catalyst now,” he said. “We’re changing the narrative for East Greensboro. There’s a lot more work to be done in this space.”
• Union Square Campus is a partnership between Cone Health, A&T, UNCG and Guilford Technical Community College to provide better training for nurses. The campus has been open for two years on the edge of downtown in what Martin described as “one of the most-blighted areas in Greensboro.”
• Farm Pavilion: The university built structures on its nearly 500-acre farm in part to teach residents how to garden, grow vegetables and can. With its agricultural research and Extension Service, Martin said, the university is helping teach small urban farmers how to grow food more efficiently in a part of town that is a food desert.
• A&T’s real-estate foundationhas invested $65 million – all of it in East Greensboro – since its formation a year ago, Martin said. It has bought apartment complexes and is designing a new residence hall; the plans intentionally include retail space that is lacking in East Greensboro.
• The Engineering Research Innovation Complex (ERIC) will be built with $90 million from the Connect NC bonds voters approved in 2016 and will be mostly dedicated to research.
• Across the street from ERIC, the university has worked with the United House of Prayer and the city to ask the church to build upscale townhouses and retail space on land that has been vacant for 15 years. The project is in design, and Martin said he hopes faculty and graduate students at ERIC will live there.
• The university is buying vacant property in East Greensboro or partnering with the owners to develop the properties. “We’re finding these dead properties and we’re challenging people who own them to do something different,” Martin said.
• After the city built a new stadium for minor-league baseball’s Greensboro Grasshoppers, A&T asked the city to give War Memorial Stadium to the university. The city agreed and will also provide $1.5 million to help the university renovate the park for use by A&T’s baseball team.
“People want to live where there’s action. People want to live where there’s excitement,” Martin said.