Burr visits Roanoke-Chowan area

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 3, 2005

Unless it's an election year, it's a rare sight to see a seated political figure mingling among their constituents, especially those in rural areas.

However, United States Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) appears as the exception to that rule.

Berry toured the Roanoke-Chowan area on Thursday and Friday, making stops in Windsor, Sunbury, Ahoskie and Garysburg.

His second stop on Thursday came during a tour of Bertie County's Medical Complex where he visited the Rural Health Department and the county's Health Department.

"What I see here today displays the creativity of rural North Carolina," Burr said. "This community recognized a need to offer a high level of healthcare. You will not find this high level of local commitment to quality healthcare anywhere else in the nation. You are a model for the rest of the nation."

When asked about the burden Medicaid places on small rural counties, in regards to paying in excess of $2 million annually for this service, the Senator was quick to respond.

"On the heels of a lottery being passed in the state, local leaders should hard-press the North Carolina County Commissioners Association to lay down the gauntlet and lobby for Medicare and Medicaid reform," he noted. "North Carolina is now the last state in the nation that requires its counties to pay a share of Medicaid costs."

After leaving Windsor, Burr visited the Open Gates Alternative School in Sunbury before traveling to Ahoskie where he toured the Berry/Kerr plant.

Senator Burr met Berry/Kerr employees and saw first hand the impressive manufacturing facility.

Burr also met with Berry/Kerr CEO Ira Boots and plant managers to discuss a variety of issues.

&uot;North Carolina is one of the top three states in the nation for business,&uot; Burr said. &uot;More and more companies are moving here and people are waking up to the reality that North Carolina has a large number of quality public and private universities.&uot;

Burr talked about the importance of education and the necessity of North Carolina to adapt to changing market places.

Boots shared some information about the company with the Senator and some concerns the company faces.

&uot;We have 25 plants around the globe and most are in the United States,&uot; said Boots. &uot;The challenge for us is the cost of labor compared to China, the Pacific Rim and Mexico and the government subsidies other nations provide their businesses. They cannot compete with the United States without government subsidies.&uot;

&uot;Our North Carolina plants have separated themselves,&uot; Boots added.

&uot;This is the second time the plant has surpassed one million hours without an injury,&uot; plant manager David Hepburn told the Senator.

&uot;There is a lot of moving equipment and it is not an easy accomplishment in an environment like this,&uot; Hepburn added. &uot;It’s all about the people.&uot;

Boots praised Burr for coming to the plant.

&uot;Very few politicians want to come to a manufacturing facility,&uot; said Boots.

&uot;North Carolina is very appreciative of your investment,&uot; Burr said. &uot;I don’t get elected if people don’t have jobs.&uot;

Burr also addressed China’s unfair manipulation of their currency and added the Senate would have to take this issue to the World Trade organization.

Burr, who sits on the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, also discussed Hurricane Katrina and the rising costs of energy in this country.

&uot;The present situation was sort-of the perfect storm,&uot; Burr said. &uot;The Colonial pipeline is 20% down and another pipeline is completely down. There is a likelihood that some gas stations will run out.&uot;

&uot;Our goal (Committee on Energy and Natural Resources) is to bring predictability to these prices,&uot; Burr said.

When asked about the current situation in Iraq, Burr responded with high praise for U.S. soldiers and described the soldiers he met on a recent visit to Iraq as &uot;the bravest group of young people&uot;.