Left to right: ECSU drone lab technician Aaron Bechiom, aviation program director Dr. Kuldeep Rawat, Interim Chancellor Karrie Dixon, Dept. of Military and Veterans Affairs Sec. Larry, Hall, and aviation professor Elton Stone discuss drone technology during the Elizabeth City Area Chamber of Commerce Business Expo Tuesday, Sept. 25.

North Carolina Secretary of the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs Larry Hall and Elizabeth City State University Interim Chancellor Karrie Dixon led the charge for Hometown Strong in September, celebrating the university’s efforts to educate and prepare future leaders in this rural corner of the state.

Hometown Strong is an initiative developed by North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper to bolster the economic development and viability of the rural counties across the state. Six pilot counties, including Pasquotank, have been chosen for this initiative. Pasquotank County Commission Chairman Cecil Perry worked with the governor’s office to identify three priority areas for the region, and ECSU’s up and coming drone aviation degree program was one.

“We are here because the governor wants to help all of North Carolina,” said Sec. Hall during a morning forum, presented to ECSU and surrounding community members. “Hometown Strong is to make sure solutions are in place so we can ensure a better quality of life for everyone.”

Part of the initiative is to develop a workforce for the region that will help grow the rural economy. With the introduction of ECSU’s drone program, slated to launch in the fall of 2019, the potential for jobs development provides the region with a positive step forward, realizing that this burgeoning industry touches on hundreds of potential career pathways, according to aviation program director, Dr. Kuldeep Rawat.

And that fact is what brought Sec. Hall to campus. Sec. Hall met with Chancellor Dixon to discuss the program both personally and on the air with the Raleigh-based morning radio show, The Sports Shop, hosted by Kevin “KMAC” McClendon and Erroll Reese, Tuesday.

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Originally published Sept 26, 2018.

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