DOBSON — The state is providing an extra $250,000 to Surry Community College for the college’s viticulture and enology program.
Dr. David Shockley, the president of the college, said his school provides the only viticulture and enology program with its own bonded winery east of the Mississippi River. Established in 1999, the Shelton-Badgett Center for Viticulture and Enology has been a game-changer for the state’s wine industry.
“In the early 2000s the wine industry in North Carolina was a $74 million industry,” explained Shockley. “It is now a $1.3 billion industry.”
“We have been a catalyst for that growth,” added Shockley.
Shockley said Surry viticulture students go on to be winemakers, owners of vineyards and work in other capacities in wineries around the state and beyond, and Surry arms them with the education to do so.
The program completely submerges students in the wine-making industry, said Shockley. They plant and prune vines in the college’s vineyard, make wine at its winery, bottle the wine and even design and make the labels for their wine. On graduation day, they have already spent years in the industry.
That recipe for success comes with a cost, however, explained Shockley. The educational allotments the college receives from the state cover classroom costs associated with general college classes, but they fall far short of covering the costs for equipment, pesticides and other expenses associated with running a full-scale winery operation.
The college had to divert monies from other programs to pay for the costs associated with the winery. Shockley said in a lot of ways, the general education classes were actually paying for the winery and other technical programs at the college with higher costs.
“We had to play a shell game, legally shifting monies from one program to another,” said Shockley. “This makes the shell game easier.”
Shockley said he noted the high costs associated with the viticulture program when he came on the job at Surry more than five years ago. Since then, he has been building the case for additional state dollars.
Surry isn’t the only community college to which the state provides additional monies for the implementation of a single program. Shockley said the college is designated as the N.C. Center for Viticulture and Enology, making it one of many colleges with a mission given to it by the state.
Those other colleges all receive extra state dollars for carrying out their designated missions, according to Shockley. For instance, the N.C. Center for Marine Technology at Cape Fear Community College, which runs its own research ship, received more than $700,000 in extra monies to operate that program in the 2016-17 fiscal year.
The N.C. Center for Manufacturing Solutions at Catawba Valley Community College was allocated an extra $881,481 to run its program in the same fiscal year. Seven other state-designated centers for different programs received such state funding. Surry was the only one left out.
Credit where it’s due
Shockley said the growth of the wine industry in the state and the college’s contribution to the industry provided great selling points to legislators, and a Wilkes County legislator was at the forefront of the lobbying efforts.
“The program sells itself,” said Shockley. “There are a lot of programs which ask for money based off of what they could do. This program has already proven itself.”
That stated, Shockley said he had to lobby for the monies. The college had asked for $500,000, and Sen. Shirley Randleman, who represents Surry County in the N.C. Senate, was at the forefront of garnering the funds the college will receive in the 2017-18 fiscal year.
“Sen. Randleman needs to get the credit here,” said Shockley.
Shockley said he met with Sen. Phil Berger, President Pro Tem of the state senate, to request the funds, but Randleman was alongside him conjuring support throughout the entire process.
Randleman said she was pleased to see the state monies awarded to the college.
“Anything we can do to help our community colleges better prepare our residents for a future career is very important to our district,” said Randleman.
Shockley said the allocation earmarked for the viticulture program won’t just benefit that program. With the state funds offsetting some costs associated with the program, the college will no longer have to divert as much funding from other programs.
Thus, the extra dollars will be seen throughout the many programs Surry Community College offers.
The monies will also help the college grow the Southeastern Wine and Grape Symposium, which it has hosted since 2012, Shockley added. Hosting the symposium is but another bullet-point on the resume which makes the wine center at Surry a leader in the industry.
That stated, Shockley noted the allocation for the 2017-18 fiscal year is not recurring. It is a one-time allocation. He hopes the extra dollars will become something the college can count on in future years.
“We will fight equally hard to ensure this becomes recurring,” said Shockley.
Andy is a staff writer and may be reached at 415-4698.