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Education Key for Economic Prosperity, says Kirk on “Appalachian Perspective”

BOONE – North Carolina must take on educational challenges in order to stimulate its emerging industries, says Phil Kirk, president and secretary of North Carolina Citizens for Business and Industry (NCCBI).

Kirk appears on the latest “Appalachian Perspective,” a 30-minute television program hosted by Appalachian State University’s Chancellor Kenneth E. Peacock.

As a former chairman of the N.C. State Board of Education, Kirk has a full understanding of North Carolina’s educational resources. In his current position with NCCBI, Kirk has found that solid educational systems are the key to creating prosperous business climates.

In the interview with Peacock, Kirk said that North Carolina’s university and community college systems are envied around the world, but the state’s public schools have challenges to meet. In North Carolina, the nation’s fourth fastest-growing public school system has an average SAT score that ranks only 45th in the United States, Kirk said. A few years ago, that average score ranked 51st, behind every state and the District of Columbia.

“Right now North Carolina has a 30 to 40 percent drop-out rate in its high schools, and that’s unacceptable,” Kirk said. But, he says improvements are being made.

“In the last 10 years, our students have gained more points on the SAT than any other state,” Kirk said. That improvement is hard to notice, he says, because the average score started so low.

According to Kirk, North Carolina’s growing industries require education. North Carolina hosts the nation’s second-largest financial services industry and third-largest biotechnology industry. Last year, 49 million tourists came to North Carolina, making it the sixth most-visited state. Without educated workers, those industries won’t continue to grow, Kirk said.

“We’ve been fortunate enough to have chief executive officers of government and CEOs of businesses that understand you can’t have a good economy, you can’t have economic development, and you can’t have good jobs if you don’t have good education,” Kirk said.

North Carolina has the highest personal income tax and third-highest corporate income taxes in the South. Over time, gradually reducing those taxes will result in bigger businesses and more jobs, Kirk said.

Kirk has joined more than 20 boards, committees and commissions to complement his work at NCCBI. The North Carolina Center for Public Policy Research recently ranked Kirk 22nd on a list of the most effective lobbyists.

Among his accomplishments at NCCBI, he helped get a $3.1 billion educational bond referendum passed by all 100 of North Carolina’s counties, a success he called “unheard of.”

Kirk is now working to reform workers compensation packages and find a solution to rising healthcare costs, a problem he says is stifling small businesses.

For more information on NCCBI’s current advocacy, call (919) 836-1400 or e-mail

“Appalachian Perspective” is a production of Appalachian’s Office of Public Affairs. The episode titled “Phil Kirk on Business and Education” airs locally through mid-July.

In Watauga County, “Appalachian Perspective” can be seen on Charter Communication’s Channel 21 weekdays at 10 a.m., 2 p.m. and 6 p.m.; Channel 2 at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday and Thursday; and on MTN’s Channel 18 on Friday evenings on the half hour. The program can also be viewed online at