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On March 15, 2016, North Carolina voters can support or reject an initiative—titled the Connect NC Bond—to borrow $2 billion to spend on infrastructure investments, while also voting in the state primaries for presidential candidates in the November election. If passed, the Connect NC Bond proposal will fund more than 120 projects across the state, ranging from $135,000 for improvements at Fort Macon State Park in Carteret County, to over $300 million for statewide water/sewer loans and grants by the N.C. Department of Environmental Control.

The Connect NC proposal is the first bond referendum in more than 15 years. The proposed bond package also will be used to fund numerous projects at UNC System schools, N.C. Community College System schools, and many state parks. The www.connectnc.gov website provides a full list of projects included in the bond package for more information.

Supporters of the bond believe the investments will provide a boost to the North Carolina economy, while making a dent in the growing amount of infrastructure needs across the state. Many of the projects financed by the last bond referendum were completed prior to 2010, and North Carolina has added over 2 million in population since the last bond was approved. The Connect NC website states: “The $2 billion bond will connect North Carolina to the 21st century through statewide investments in education, parks, safety, recreation, and water and sewer infrastructure.”

If the outcome of the last bond package is any indication, Historically Underutilized Businesses (HUB) can anticipate an increase in opportunities if the referendum passes. Most of the state-funded construction projects coming from the UNC System, community colleges, and other state agencies will include goals for the participation of HUB-certified companies. Minority and women-owned companies in the design and construction industry would be wise to ensure that their HUB certifications are updated to ensure maximum opportunities on the Connect NC funded projects should the bond referendum pass on March 15.

Five North Carolina Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) also stand to gain from passage of the bond package. The HBCUs receiving projects in the package include: Elizabeth City State University ($13 million); North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University ($90 million); Winston Salem State University ($50 million); Fayetteville State University ($10 million); and North Carolina Central University ($30 million).

Regardless of political affiliation or current litigation related to voter registration, the reality is that every vote matters and every vote counts. The right and responsibility to vote is a privilege and a hallmark of our democracy. The Institute encourages new voters to register, and registered voters across North Carolina to get out and vote on March 15. For more information on how to position your company for success, visit www.TheInstituteNC.org and follow conversations online using @TheInstituteNC.