The program will bring together a group of about 20 people, many of them in supervisory or mid-management positions, from various occupations and from all parts of the county. Meeting from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. for one day each month from September to May (except December), the participants will study and practice leadership skills and expand their personal networks.
Todd Tucker, president of the Surry County Economic Development Partnership, said they also will get an insiders’ look at “what’s going on, what’s working and what’s challenging in Surry County.”
SCEDP and Surry Community College are working together to present the program.
“There are three things we want to accomplish,” said George Sappenfield, the college’s vice president for corporate and continuing education. “One is to get a good mixture of people in the class who represent different parts of what goes on in Surry and create a networking opportunity for them.”
Every leader must learn to draw on different people and resources to be effective, he explained.
“We also want to build an awareness of how things work here in Surry County and how what’s going on in one field, such as health care, affects another, such as education” Sappenfield continued.
Participants will receive briefings about what’s happening today in business and industry, municipal and county government, health care, education, agriculture, tourism and non-profit organizations. There will be field trips in addition to the sessions at Surry Community College’s campus in Dobson.
“We want it to be exciting,” Sappenfield said.
Eight to 10 years ago, what was then called Leadership Surry County grew out of a growing sense among community leaders that economic-development efforts would be stronger and better coordinated if people knew more about what was going on in other communities.
The task of setting up Leadership Surry County fell to the community college.
“We are all about economic development and doing everything we can help the growth of our service area,” Sappenfield said.
Dennis Lowe, then director of the college’s Small Business Center and occupational programs, coordinated Leadership Surry County.
“People came from Elkin, Pilot Mountain, Lowgap, just everywhere. From banks, nonprofits, schools, businesses – a good mixture. We targeted mid-management, but we had all ages and levels of experience,” said Lowe, who’s currently chairman of the Mount Airy Chamber of Commerce. “It was kind of intensive, but people seemed to enjoy it. They’d learn some additional skills that would help them be better leaders and it gave them access to similar individuals to form a network. They worked together as groups and you could see the pride they took in it. They would gain skills they didn’t even realize. I’d see them out at various functions and they were more at ease; it gave them confidence.”
Surry Community College expanded the program to Yadkin County, alternating it annually with Leadership Surry County.
Then the recession hit, companies cut back on their spending, and the program was suspended for several years.
However, many people remembered it. Tucker said several companies and individuals started talking to him and SCEDP Vice President LeeAnn Stokes about whether Leadership Surry could be resurrected.
“It was an important program for the county,” Tucker said, “And it fits in with part of our mission at the Partnership, which is growing leadership from high school, through young professionals and on to existing companies and their employees.”
“(Leadership Surry) has been away too long,” Sappenfield said. “We’re excited about being part of the team that brings it back.”
In their collaborative effort, SCEDP is providing program and logistical support and the college is providing facilities and educational support. Tucker said he hopes local companies and non-profit groups will contribute to the effort by sponsoring luncheons and hosting field trips.
Details of the application process will come out late in July (there will be links on both the college and SCEDP websites).
Both Tucker and Sappenfield stressed that not everyone who applies will get in. There will be a maximum of 20 people.
“We want being selected to be very special,” Sappenfield said. “We want this to be a high-quality group of people who show a lot of interest. Supervisors and mid-managers, preferably, but we’d also like to have a mixture of age and experience and different occupations. Business people, but also people from education, nonprofits, volunteer groups, tourism and hospitality, and just interested citizens. Every part of it contributes to the growth and positiveness of Surry County.”
The cost will be $275 per person.
Tucker said companies and other organizations interested in Leadership Surry may contact him at the SCEDP office in Dobson, 336-401-9900, or by sending email to firstname.lastname@example.org.