NC East Alliance

PotashCorp Pledges $30,000 For The Growth of STEM Education in Eastern North Carolina

November 02, 2016

The STEM East Network in partnership with the NCEast Alliance (NCEA) is pleased to announce that PotashCorp will join the Eastern NC Superintendents and Employers Council (ENCESC) as part of the NCEA’s initiative to build capacity through improving labor skills in the region. PotashCorp is the world’s largest fertilizer company by capacity and maintains operations and business interests in seven countries. The company’s phosphate plant, located in Aurora, North Carolina is one of the region’s larger employers.

PotashCorp’s support comes by way of a $30,000 grant to sponsor the region’s value-added agriculture cluster development efforts as well as support the work being done by the STEM East Network to expand STEM education throughout eastern NC. PotashCorp’s level of commitment creates a seat on the Eastern NC Superintendents and Employers Council as well as an opportunity to be elected by the membership to the Board of the NC Eastern Alliance Corp. The Council works to establish long-term, regional STEM initiatives by developing relationships with public school districts, area employers, public/private foundations and other supportive entities.

W. Ray McKeithan, Public and Government Affairs Manager for PCS Phosphate Company, Inc., will represent PotashCorp on the council. Mr. McKeithan oversees government relations, serves as company spokesperson and administers philanthropic community support. Prior to joining PotashCorp in 2012, he held leadership positions at several North Carolina newspapers, most recently the Washington Daily News as President and Publisher. Mr. McKeithan is a graduate of East Carolina University and serves on many civic, business and community boards. McKeithan resides in Washington, NC. 

McKeithan stated, “We're very excited about the rapid growth and impact of the STEM East Network as it builds a foundation of training and education of our future workforce. It opens minds and creates opportunities for young scholars to expand career opportunities of which they might not otherwise have been aware. Importantly, it meets an important need as identified by educators, the industrial sector and community leaders. The future socioeconomic health of the region depends on the vision of these type of initiatives. We're proud to support this effort.”

PotashCorp pledged its support based on NCEA’s approach to area development by promoting the region’s primary economic clusters such as value-added agriculture (food processing, wood products, etc.), life science, defense/aerospace, marine trades among others. The Alliance has partnered with the US Marine Corps, NC State University and others to promote the purchase of local agricultural and processed foods by distributors that supply our military installations. To date, this effort, known as Food & Fuel for the Forces (FF4F) has resulted in increased purchases of locally produced goods by more than $17 million by working with area producers as well as key suppliers such as Foster Caviness and Sysco. The grant from PotashCorp will assist the efforts to further the development of the region’s agricultural sector.

John Chaffee, President/CEO of the NCEast Alliance stated, “We are very pleased to have PotashCorp join the Alliance to support our economic and workforce development activities. Their particular interest in our regional STEM initiative is particularly gratifying, especially since they are a major employer attracting skilled workers from multiple counties in our footprint.”

The grant will also be used to promote science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education through the STEM East Network that was initially focused on inserting STEM Learning Centers in middle schools. This effort involves redefining traditional classroom roles so that teachers become facilitators/mentors and children become self-motivated, learning about topics relevant to the regional economy and working in teams. The program has resulted in improved behavior and increased performance on math and science tests, especially among minority students (validated by a third party evaluation team – the NCSU Friday Institute). One other key element of the success of this program has been engaging the private sector, obtaining commitments from major employers to support this effort financially and through the involvement of the employees as a resource for teachers and students.

STEM East is developing and fostering a community dedicated to making the connection between education and how it pertains to developing the region’s future workforce. The support of Potash allows the NCEast Alliance (NCEA) and the STEM East Network to further develop programs designed to support employers, especially manufacturers and healthcare institutions in the region along with the mission of branding eastern North Carolina as a prime location for the recruitment of new industry based on the availability of a qualified workforce.

“Through collaborative public/private partnerships we can better move the needle for students in the Eastern North Carolina region,” stated Dr. Ethan Lenker, Co-Chair of the ENC Employers & Superintendents Council.

"We are excited to welcome PotashCorp to the ENC Employers & Superintendents Council. The Council is committed to fostering an environment of partnership between employers and educators in eastern, North Carolina. The result is a “win-win-win” for students, educators and employers as it adds relevancy to student curriculums, resources for educators and STEM skilled graduates for employers.”, said Dr. Steven Hill Executive Director of the STEM East Network.

In 2016, STEM East, in association with The Burroughs Wellcome Fund, was chosen to represent North Carolina as one of twenty-seven entities across the country to participate in the STEM EcoSystem established by the National STEM Funders Network (NSFN). The NSFN will collaborate with these 27 organizations to promote and develop STEM education in their respective regions throughout the US.

For more information about STEM East, please contact Dr. Steve Hill at 252-689-6496 or [email protected] or visit STEM East operates as a component of the NCEast Alliance, a regional economic development agency serving 28 counties in eastern North Carolina (

The NCEast Alliance region has approximately 1.3 million residents in several small metropolitan and micropolitan areas in eastern North Carolina. The region extends from the fringe of the Research Triangle to the Atlantic Coast and from Jacksonville/Onslow County to the Virginia state line. The Alliance provides community capacity building, marketing/lead generation, and assists companies with site location and expansion evaluations. For more information on the NCEast Alliance, visit us at


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