North Carolina Lieutenant Governor Mark Robinson greets CCCC officials during his tour of the Eugene Moore Manufacturing and Biotech Solutions Center in Sanford on Tuesday. Photo by Richard Sullins.

By Richard Sullins |

North Carolina Lieutenant Governor Mark Robinson was in Sanford on Tuesday to see first-hand how a model partnership is about to transform the way education and training can be delivered to support businesses and industries in communities like Sanford that are experiencing explosive growth.

“When I was growing up, I saw empty buildings in town after town that my family drove through, and I wondered why nothing was done with them. Right here is a perfect example of what can happen when people work together to achieve a common vision. This is the vision that we need all across the state and you’re showing us how to do it right here,” Robinson told the crowd.

Robinson, a Republican, had requested an opportunity to visit the 22-acre site on Nash Street that was formerly the home of Magnetti Marelli. The property was purchased by Lee County in the summer of 2021 on behalf of Central Carolina Community College.

Six months later, the college’s board of trustees voted to rename the facility as the E. Eugene Moore Manufacturing and Biotech Solutions Center, in honor of Moore’s $2 million gift to the college from where he graduated. Moore, who earned his credentials in machining, is the chief executive officer of Bear Creek Arsenal in Sanford. Moore and his wife were on hand to greet Robinson during his visit.

H. Julian Philpott, chair of the CCCC Board of Trustees, paid special recognition to Lee County Commissioners at the event. Philpott said that the commissioners have been the college’s “A-team” that has made things happen for the Moore Center. The county has already invested more than $12 million into the new campus, including land acquisition, DEQ mitigation, and renovations for the Truck Driver Training and Bioprocessing Technology buildings.

Commission Chairman Kirk Smith (R), along with Commissioners Mark Lovick (D) and Taylor Vorbeck (R), attended Robinson’s visit on behalf of the county.

CCCC President Dr. Lisa Chapman put into perspective for the crowd of about 125 people what the building out of the Moore Center will mean.

“It gives me a thrill today to no longer say that this property is beside our campus. It Is our campus now. And you just wait to see what is going to happen here,” she said. “This is more than an expansion of the college. It’s also a solution for the region, for the VinFasts and the Wolfspeeds, and for the others, too. It may be cliché to say that this facility will be a ‘game changer,’ but come back in a couple of years and see just how accurate that characterization is going to be.”

As Robinson walked through the facility, he seemed to be listening closely to what the college needs to make this sprawling addition come alive. VinFast’s decision to delay the opening of its new manufacturing facility near Pea Ridge Road in Chatham County to 2025 has given the college a little more breathing room to make this new addition operational, but Robinson went away with a clear understanding that CCCC and Lee County will need help from the state if the Moore Center is to be ready on time.

The flat roofs that cover this sprawling complex of interconnected buildings provide shelter for 220,000 square feet of available space. CCCC has invested the two years since acquiring the property in designing a concept for learning and supporting industry that will be like none other in the state.

CCCC Vice President for Workforce Development Margaret Roberton spoke of how the Moore Center’s redesign will make the best possible use of just under a quarter of a million square feet of space that is now part of the campus.

About half of that available space – 120,000 square feet – will provide expanded opportunities for local residents in existing and new programs that will fill this area. Those who graduate from programs offered here will bring back to the community an estimated $1.25 billion in increased salaries as a result of the higher-level skills learned inside this high-tech facility.

Another 30,000 square feet will be reserved for training to meet the needs of incoming industries that relate to talent pipeline development, training opportunities, and landing spaces.

Future industries will be able to make use of a 10,000 square foot area that will be reserved for incubator startups, and the remainder will provide opportunities for active partnerships with NC State, NC A&T, and other universities, as well as an intentionally designed showcase to allow targeted populations, like veterans and secondary students, to imagine the possibilities of careers in their own communities.

The college is seeking a one-time infusion of $50 million in capital funding to complete its Advanced Manufacturing Building on the Moore Campus. This space will be home to programs in industrial systems, engineering technology, welding, industry soft landing space, industry training, student areas, and showcase spaces.

Robinson made no promises, but local leaders could get a sense of how successful his visit was by keeping an eye on the state budget process that’s now underway at the state legislature.