“Education is the key” to ensuring North Carolina’s economic future, Gov. Roy Cooper told the NC CEO Forum on healthcare in Raleigh on Monday.

Cooper said that when he talks with CEOs, “their number one issue is the workforce.” They ask: “Do you have the people and the talent we need?”

Gov. Roy Cooper addresses CEO Forum

The governor also said pre-K school to give students a boost even before lindergarten has been shown to provide them with an ongoing scholastic advantage. “The Legislature has answered that call for now,” he said.

But, he added, “We need to make NC a top education state by 2025.” That means getting more kids into pre-K, graduating more students from high school, and increasing the number who go on to post-high school attainments.”

Noted Cooper: “We give you (business) a great workforce and we give them a great life.”

Budget woes

Cooper also warned that the while he is not advocating raising taxes the legislature must stop passing additional tax breaks because they could strain the state budget, which must be balanced, to the breaking point.

“We know what’s coming at us,” he said. The state faces a shortage of both doctors and nurses in the near future, has a serious urban-rural divide in access to healthcare, and a growing opioid addiction problem, he said. While the state has plans to address these problems, “We have to have a tax base to do it,” he said.

“We have a looming budget crisis. More of these tax cuts are going to hurt us.”

Award to Brad Wilson

Cooper also presented the Forum’s Lifetime Achievement Award to Brad Wilson, former president and CEO of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of NC, who retired in December.

Cooper appointed Wilson to chair the 18 members of the Governor’s Commission on Access to Sound, Basic Education in December 2017. Cooper has asked the commission to evaluate how the state can meet the requirements of the landmark 1997 Leandro court decision.

In the Leandro case, the state Supreme Court ruled in Leandro v. the State that the NC Constitution gives every child in the state a right to the opportunity to receive a sound education. The lawsuit is currently in its remedial phase, with ongoing hearings intended to determine if the state is meeting its constitutional requirement.

Brad Wilson, former president and CEO of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of NC accepts The NC CEO Forum Lifetime Achievement Award.


Cooper also praised Mandy Cohen, MD, whom he recruited to NC as Secretary of NC Health and Human Services. She spoke earlier at the event. “She could have done anything for any amount of money, but I told her we needed her in NC,” Cooper said.

Cohen was previously CEO and Chief of Staff at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). Cohen described the state’s new emphasis on merging attention to the physical, mental, and social health of its residents.