04/25/11 — The future: New census numbers give city, county chance to think of next steps

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The future: New census numbers give city, county chance to think of next steps

Population ebb and flow is nothing new. Most cities and counties find themselves looking at new numbers every time someone counts. That is what happens in this especially mobile modern world.

In this case, the numbers were positive for Goldsboro and Wayne County -- although the distribution might have been a little surprising.

The redistricting process will take care of the representation concerns -- we can argue about the relevancy of that division another time. There are some people who wonder if perhaps the limitations from the 1960s are still necessary in the city today.

But we digress.

Now that the numbers are in, county and city officials are wondering how they can be translated into progress for this community.

Can we attract major retailers? Is there a chain restaurant in our future? Is this a sign that more people are starting to think of Wayne County as a good place to raise a family and a cost-effective alternative to some of Raleigh's traditional bedroom communities?

All interesting questions, aren't they?

So now, with all this new information, it is time to hear some ideas from the men and women who are charged with the future of this community.

And that means a real plan -- not just random ideas of what could be, but a roadmap on how to get there.

Adjustments like the numbers we received from the census suggest that the plans we made even as short as five years ago might not still be the direction we want to go -- or that perhaps those dreams could be bigger.

So we need to talk about our economic development plan again, as well as what we think about downtown Goldsboro and its potential for growth.

We need to look at every idea with the economy in mind -- and the understanding that we have to have realistic and attainable goals.

Wayne County residents do not want to see any slippage in their county's position. They want to see growth and more reasons for people and businesses to come here. When that happens, property values increase and it becomes easier to tackle projects like new schools, better parks and all the other great stuff that comes with a growing and thriving community.

What they do not want is to see random thoughts, little direction and irresponsible spending. And they are deathly afraid of politics taking over the decision-making process.

Now is not the time for speculation that is not based in firm belief that there will be success -- or any favors for political allies.

So, why not have a very public discussion about the future?

How about sharing the Wayne Economic Development Alliance's vision for the area as well as a frank discussion about what we need to attract industry and to make this community more conducive to investment. And while we are at it, let's talk about the Global TransPark -- the state has doubts about it, so what are we doing to stem the potential damage that could do?

How about revisiting the downtown plans and re-emphasizing how vital this area of the community can be to this city -- and addressing head-on the concerns that keep people questioning investment there and putting the issues to rest one more time.

And how about hearing from our city and county leaders what they see as the priorities for their community.

We are asking for accountability at the state and federal levels of government -- perhaps it is time to push a little harder here, too.

Wayne County is likely on the cusp of having a chance to determine a course and to set the wheels in motion to make it happen.

All we have to do is ask the right questions, address the real issues and to develop a plan for the city and county that includes a buy-in from the citizenry.

And we won't get the latter unless that citizenry hears -- once again -- the plan, the pros and cons and what it will take to get it done.

Let's dream big and then devise a responsible way to get there.

Published in Editorials on April 25, 2011 11:21 AM