12/14/05 — Fremont leaders discuss development

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Fremont leaders discuss development

By Jack Stephens
Published in News on December 14, 2005 1:45 PM

FREMONT -- When economic development is mentioned in Wayne County, the phrase means more than Goldsboro and Mount Olive. It also includes Fremont.

Joanna Thompson, the president of the county's Economic Development Commission, or EDC, told Tuesday night's monthly Fremont town board meeting that one client had looked at a site on Davis Mill Road, east of town. She said the N.C. Commerce Department had assessed the site.

Ms. Thompson said the new U.S. 117 corridor alone would not entice new businesses to northern Wayne County. She said clients look at training opportunities, facilities and incentives in addition to the transportation network.

"Competition in economic development is extremely fierce," she said.

Ms. Thompson said 15,000 economic development organizations in the nation had made about 10,000 announcements.

Wayne County gets "more than its fair share of look-sees," she said, with a lot of traffic and hits on the web page. She said the county is competing with other states for businesses.

While the EDC and the Committees of 100 in Goldsboro and Mount Olive have generated revenue to assist in industry recruiting, Ms. Thompson said more money was needed from the private sector. As a result, the EDC has hired a fund raiser. At the same time, she said she wanted all seven municipalities in the county to work together.

The current economic development campaign, Impact Wayne, will be launched with a news conference and a kickoff luncheon next week with Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue as the keynote speaker.

Ms. Thompson said industry recruiting "doesn't happen overnight. It takes more than elected town leadership and staff. You must have private sector leadership."

Town Alderman Billy Harvey suggested that the private sector has resources and ideas.

Ms. Thompson said her agency is not in the real estate business. "What we're trying to sell is Wayne County," she said. Ninety percent of her clients ask about the county because of its two shell buildings with four walls, a roof but no floor.

Older buildings, many of which were used in textile manufacturing, have low ceilings and are difficult to market. New businesses are seeking 25-foot ceilings, she said.

When Mayor Devone Jones asked how Fremont could help in recruitment, Ms. Thompson answered that the town could generate private sector involvement, including younger people.