Rick Armstrong

Rick Armstrong

As a third-generation Teamster, I know the importance of a growing economy in North Carolina. Attracting businesses to our region means more job opportunities, tax incentives and higher home values.

But not all regions are created equally, and eastern North Carolina is having a tough time enticing major manufacturers and businesses to make our state home. One of the biggest reasons behind this trend often goes unnoticed: there is a lack of natural gas supply required to power large-scale businesses.

It’s a little-known fact that North Carolina has only one significant interstate transmission line to supply natural gas to the state. The pipeline has an easy time serving the western and central parts of the state, but economic developers in the east say that time and again, they have been told businesses can’t build here because they cannot be guaranteed a good supply of natural gas.

The Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) is a remedy to the problem. This 600-mile pipeline will be a necessary second source of natural gas for North Carolina, providing greater reliability and lowering energy costs by millions for our households and businesses.

Importantly, the ACP is a win for our workforce. The two-year construction process alone will bring almost $700 million in economic activity and create more than 4,000 jobs across eastern North Carolina. And these aren’t just any jobs; they are good-paying, middle-class jobs that can provide a real future for working families.

Labor jobs will be front and center on this project. The Teamsters are among those organizations that are included under an agreement with ACP that will create 13,000 construction jobs along the entirety of the pipeline, half of which are guaranteed to be dedicated to local union members.

The local nature of the project is key. At least 25 percent of all new hires — individuals joining the trade unions for the first time — will come from the local communities where the pipeline will be built. Many positions will start at $20-$25 per hour and include benefits such as health insurance and retirement plans. Those with prior experience in the construction business stand to make much more.

Over the long-term, having this new energy infrastructure in North Carolina will create opportunity for many years to come. North Carolina is expecting about $60 million in tax revenues from the pipeline through the year 2025 for schools, roads and other vital services. The project construction will also employ local equipment and concrete suppliers, fencing and trucking companies, vehicle services and hydraulics shops and many more.

Unfortunately, all of these benefits have been halted due to activists and politics. Those claiming to know what’s best for our communities have protested the pipeline, and the courts have followed suit — saying it’s up to Congress to get the project up and running again.

This, despite the fact that federal agencies took three years to review and approve the project for safety and need. And with highly-skilled and trained union laborers behind the construction of the project, I have no doubt that it will be built to the highest standards that will ensure a safe environment for families and communities in the pipeline’s path.

While politics runs its course, the east continues to rebuild after the devastation of Hurricane Florence. It’s heartening to see disaster relief funds make their way through the legislature, but money alone won’t right the ship. We need jobs and opportunity that can sustain the test of time, and ACP can go a long way in helping to revitalize a hard-hit community.

North Carolina politicians, both on the local and federal level, should do all they can to make ACP a reality and get the east back on its feet for good.

Rick Armstrong is the vice president of Teamsters Local 391, a union of more than 5,000 members across central and eastern North Carolina.

Contact Bobby Burns at baburns@reflector.com and 329.9572.