09/12/07 — Fremont, Pikeville, Eureka urged to work together

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Fremont, Pikeville, Eureka urged to work together

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on September 12, 2007 1:45 PM

PIKEVILLE -- Told that in order to grow and create economic development opportunities for themselves, Fremont, Pikeville and Eureka are going to have to work together, town officials and residents seemed eager to get started Tuesday night after hearing the results of a just-completed northern Wayne community assessment study.

"I think it was very thorough," said H. Powell Dew Jr., of Fremont. "It was encouraging for the different towns."

As one of the town residents who took part in the many study groups and surveys over the last year, he said that he thought the Sanford Holshouser Business Development Group, which conducted the study, did a good job gathering input and information from all parties involved.

"They listened and really gave it a fresh look," he said. "I'm optimistic that the towns will step forward and come up with a plan for the whole region, not just each town."

And that was the study's bottom-line recommendation -- that Fremont, Pikeville and Eureka have to begin working together and with the county in order to overcome their weaknesses and capitalize on their strengths.

Until now, though, that sort of cooperation and communication has not existed.

"I think the belief of many in the northern half of the county is that they've been sort of kicked to the curb," said Dennis Lewis of Pikeville.

But now, he continued, he thinks there's a chance for the region to turn the corner.

"There are no easy answers, but you can't find an answer if you don't talk, and that's been part of the problem," he said.

The study was based largely on the opinions of study groups and the results of community surveys.

"I think we needed to know before we did anything, how the people feel, what they're interested in and what they'll support," said Edith McClenny, parks and recreation commissioner in Pikeville.

Among the challenges identified as facing the three communities are weak, yet expensive utilities, a lack of available land and buildings to offer incoming businesses, and a declining and aging population.

Among their strengths, though, are strong civic organizations, good county schools, the U.S. 117 bypass, a central location to Wilson, Goldsboro and the Triangle, and heritage and agri-tourism opportunities.

The goal is to figure out a way to put all those pieces of the puzzle together.

"We've got to start thinking outside the box," Lewis said. "The box has been the same for the last 50 years and we've got to start thinking outside that."

Now the next step is to put together a Northern Wayne Task Force, comprised of residents and town officials from each of the three communities. Already on Tuesday, names were being taken of those interested in serving.

"Let's move forward with this," said Fremont Town Manager Kerry McDuffie. "We're going to have to have people to come and get involved to make this work."

Anyone interested in helping with process is encouraged to call the town halls of Eureka, Fremont and Pikeville or the Wayne County Development Alliance.