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To the North Carolina General Assembly for appropriating an extra $250,000 to Surry Community College for its viticulture program. This is long overdue but is problematic in that it’s a one-time appropriation, as opposed to a recurring one.

According to the colleges president, Dr. David Shockley, the wine industry in North Carolina has grown from $74 million in annual in 2002 receipts to $1.3 billion last year. The Shelton-Badgett Center for Viticulture and Enology was established at the college in 1999, and it’s no coincidence the state has seen such growth during the same time period.

The wine industry was destined to grow, particularly with land moving from tobacco farming with the end of federal price supports, but no one could have predicted that level of growth. Surry Community College has been a major driving force in the explosion of the wine industry in the state, with private businesses and state coffers deriving far more than than $250,000 in benefits from the program’s existence.

We hope this time next year the appropriation will become permanent.

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To local fire fighters and rescue squad personnel. Over the past week there was a house fire in Pilot Mountain, numerous medical calls at area residences, brush fires, auto accidents, and other unexpected occurrences, all needing the attention of these folks.

North Carolina State Fire Marshal Mike Causey was in town this past week, and one of the subjects he addressed was the dwindling number of volunteers working in EMS. These folks put in hundreds of hours of training, and answer calls all times of day and night, on weekends, holidays — and they do it simply to serve their community.

In today’s climate, with more demands on time and dwindling personal financial resources for hard-working area residents, we fear the volunteer firefighter or rescue squad worker may be an endangered species. But as long as they are on the job, we should always remember to offer our gratitude.

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To Rose Ayers of Memories on Main, Bark & Meow, the Fluid Factory, and other local volunteers and businesses who put on the fourth annual Comic-Con on Main Street last week.

The event paired comic book vendors, local artists and businesses with area residents and visitors to the city in a unique, family friendly gathering, while raising money for the Surry County Chapter of the Autism Society of North Carolina.

This is the type of activity which gives people yet another reason to visit downtown Mount Airy, helping to keep the business district vibrant and diversified.

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