ESC may return to Hertford Co.

Published 8:50 am Monday, February 16, 2009

AHOSKIE – Local and regional leaders are continuing to work towards providing Employment Security Commission (ESC) services to the citizens of Hertford County.

In a meeting Tuesday at Roanoke-Chowan Community College, business and political leaders from throughout Hertford County gathered to see what could be done about returning those services which were lost when the Hertford County office of the North Carolina ESC closed in April of 2008.

Hertford County Commissioner DuPont L. Davis has spearheaded this renewed effort to see services returned to the county.

“We want our citizens to have access to Employment Security Commission services without having to drive through another county to get to the office,” he said. “At this point, our citizens must drive through Bertie County to Williamston, through Gates County to Elizabeth City or through Northampton County to Roanoke Rapids.”

Tuesday’s meeting saw leaders discuss their options, particularly focusing on the choice between seeking an Employment Security Office or a North Carolina JobLink Center.

“We focused on looking at which would make more sense and still provide the services our citizens need,” said Hertford County Manager Loria D. Williams. “We discussed what a JobLink Center is at great length and, at the end of the day, that seemed to be our best option.”

A JobLink Center would provide the services of the ESC, but would also require partnership from Roanoke-Chowan Community College and access to all Workforce Investment Act (WIA) programs. That would require the involvement of the Mid-East Commission, who has already worked to help the citizens of Hertford County with ESC.

Walter Dorsey, who serves as Workforce Development Director for Mid-East, was present at the meeting and said by telephone Friday morning he was working with local leaders because the citizens of Hertford County deserved ESC services.

“JobLink incorporates several partners,” he said. “The main partner is the Employment Security Commission, but it also requires access to Workforce Investment Act programs and partnership from the community college.”

Dorsey and Williams each reported that the meeting Tuesday resulted in two sets of goals – one long term and one short term.

“Right now we’re working with Patsy Jones, the regional manager of ESC, to move quickly to get some of their consultants in the county,” Dorsey said.

At the present time, the ESC workers would operate out of the old Home Economics Building at the Ahoskie High School Apartment complex. Dorsey said Choanoke Area Development Association (CADA) Director Sallie Surface had agreed to the use of that space to help citizens receive services.

“We’re working to make that happen as quickly as possible,” Williams said.

“We wanted to have the short-term goal because the other process could take some time,” Dorsey said. “The bottom line is we want services to the citizens of Hertford County.”

Dorsey said the long-term goal of providing a JobLink Center could take some time, but was already under way.

“Everything is moving forward,” he said. “This is a top priority.”

Davis also said it was one of his priorities and that he had spent much of the week working on the project.

“I am working along with everyone else to make sure this happens as quickly as possible,” Davis said. “I’ve been in touch with ESC Chairman Moses Carey and I believe he would like to see us be successful. I’m going to continue working on it as hard as I can.”

Commissioner William F. Mitchell Jr. was also at the meeting and stressed the importance of continuing to work to provide ESC services to citizens of the county.

“My first question was about our unemployment rate and they told me it was 8.3 percent,” Mitchell said. “When you have a county our size and have that high rate of unemployment, it is obvious we need the services.

“I was pleased with the meeting,” he continued. “I think great strides were made and I’m looking forward to our citizens receiving the Employment Security Commission services whether they are in an ESC office or a JobLink site.”