It’s a common refrain. Most every candidate for public office, not to mention a fair number of folks already in those offices, preach about the need to bring both jobs and education opportunities to local residents.
Yet few ever voice concrete steps, or pursue plans to get such an endeavor under way.
That’s why it was refreshing to recently hear Larry Phillips, a Mount Airy District representative on the Surry Board of Commissioners, offer a solid idea on bringing some higher-end aeronautics jobs and educational opportunities to the community.
Phillips reached out to Liberty University, in Lynchburg, Virginia, and a flight training affiliate program of the school, with the idea of exploring a partnership that would allow local students to obtain a B.S. degree from the college, while doing most of their necessary work right here in Surry County.
A good deal of the work would be done online, and much of the flight training could be accomplished at the Surry County-Mount Airy airport.
At the moment, that’s just an idea. First, the airport has to obtain a special certification, and the university’s flight school would have to be approved by the North Carolina state university system’s board of governors.
Here again, Phillips, is not waiting around for someone else to do the work. He and the governing airport authority has asked John Spane, the owner of the airport’s fixed-based operator Ra-Tech, to explore what the airport must do to earn the certification.
And, work is already under way to get the university’s program approved in North Carolina, a task Phillips said he hopes will be completed within 18 months.
The only other piece of the puzzle would be a need for students to receive advanced instruction needed to fly large commercial jets. Phillips said the students could simply fly to Lynchburg — they would have their pilot’s license by then — do the training there, then return home.
This isn’t the kind of program that’s going to plop 200 good-paying jobs in the community. But it is a strong, worthy effort that could land a dozen or two good-paying jobs for pilots, airport management, mechanics, and similar support personnel.
It would also offer a pathway for local youth to find a strong, well-paying career without having to leave their homes.
Both are good, strong endeavors, and this is exactly the sort of outside-the-box thinking local leaders should offer.