05/09/06 — Mount Olive seeking to form community development corp.

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Mount Olive seeking to form community development corp.

By Turner Walston
Published in News on May 9, 2006 1:48 PM

MOUNT OLIVE--Mayor Ruff Huggins said the continued success of the North Carolina Pickle Festival shows the potential of downtown Mount Olive. Now he's hoping to make the area more attractive to businesses year-round.

Following this year's festival, town commissioners told Huggins to move forward with plans to form a Community Development Corporation. The corporation would be a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, Huggins said, with the objective of maintaining and improving downtown Mount Olive and promoting affordable housing.

"It's really a non-profit that's run by citizens, business people and others in the community who have an interest in keeping the downtown district alive and viable," he said.

The corporation would help improve a strong downtown, Huggins said.

"We have a lot of potential here," he said. "When you compare our downtown area to downtown areas of other towns our size, we're holding on pretty good."

With shopping centers going up away from downtown, Huggins said it's sometimes difficult to keep a small town alive.

"We've managed to maintain some pretty substantial tax bases downtown," he said. "We're not discouraging growth in other areas, we're just trying to preserve the tax base that's already here and keep it alive."

Possibilities for the corporation include creating a "Small Business Development Incubator," an office complex to help entrepreneurs start or grow their businesses, Huggins said.

"You'd provide space and the basics, and the telephone and a copy machine and fax machine, where someone can come in and start up a business," Huggins said. "Once they get their business up and running, hopefully they'll outgrow the space that you're providing them."

Huggins said he had been speaking with officials about Mount Olive College about offering services such as financial advice and accounting education through the incubator.

A community development corporation is an idea whose time has come, Huggins said.

"We've talked about it on a number of occasions. It seems like every time we talk about it, something else comes along that's got priority," he said. "I hope that we can talk about it again at our next board meeting, and from there we'll see how much time we need," he said.