11/26/06 — City shares stats for growth downtown

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City shares stats for growth downtown

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on November 26, 2006 2:01 AM

It's no longer enough to simply say downtown Goldsboro is headed for a renaissance, local economic development officials say.

Now, they want numbers.

So, executive director Julie Thompson and other staff at the Downtown Goldsboro Development Corporation recently released the 2005-06 Main Street statistics, to give residents a better idea about the state of affairs in the heart of the city.

Last year, more than $4.5 million in public investment was made downtown. That figure, which includes money spent by both the city and county governments, factors in more than $3.3 million spent on the new City Hall and costs involved in the ongoing Paramount Theater and Community Building projects -- property purchases, design and engineering work.

City Manager Joe Huffman said during his stint in Goldsboro, he has noticed "a major shift" in the way people look at downtown.

"When I would leave this building 18 months ago or whenever it was, and I leave now, it's just a different place," Huffman said. "The city of Goldsboro, the City Council, has been concerned and interested in improving the appearance downtown. What I have seen since I've been here is a tremendous amount of support."

He feels confident that the numbers don't lie and that people will soon see the downtown vision come to fruition.

"This thing's going to take off," Huffman said. "It's just a matter of time."

In the past year alone, 16 new businesses moved downtown, bringing more than 30 jobs with them.

The Downtown Deli, Table 2 Coffee Shop, Natee Thai restaurant and Bland, Heekin, Smith and Strickland, PLLC are among those that brought in the most new employees.

Still, as those new businesses arrived, some closed.

Quality Lock & Key left and took two employees with it. Paramount Cleaners, Willow Place Antiques, Another Time Around, Horizon's Sandwich Shop and the ABC store took another 18.

In the end, though, downtown was left with a net gain of eight businesses and 10 employees -- not including more than 60 jobs created when the Fraternal Order of Police, Koi Asian Bistro and Allied Department Store expanded their operations.

"Increasing the employee base is really important to downtown," Mrs. Thompson said. "It creates more of an audience for businesses that might want to come downtown, and it creates a need for other kinds of businesses."

New jobs and stores, though, are only part of the change that has occurred downtown, she added. Investors are creating a more attractive area, too.

In the last year, five facade grant projects were completed and more than $50,000 of work was put into these "business face-lifts."

"Every year it seems to get more and more popular," she said. "It's one of my favorite parts of what we do because it makes a positive impact immediately."

And when one business decides to improve its look, others feel compelled to do their part, too, Mrs. Thompson added.

"It's interesting. It seems to me that every time we have a facade grant done, the neighbors on that street start calling in," she said. "Nobody wants to be the ugly duckling."

Yes, downtown is turning around, Mrs. Thompson and Huffman said. The numbers don't lie.

"I'll tell you, soon you won't recognize this place," Huffman said.