12/13/12 — Alliance looks at former hospital site

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Alliance looks at former hospital site

By Steve Herring
Published in News on December 13, 2012 1:46 PM

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The Wayne County Development Alliance's planning retreat held Wednesday at the Mount Olive Sleep Inn included breakout groups that looked at goals for the coming year. Clockwise from left, County Manager Lee Smith and Neal Benton, alliance board members, Jeremy Clayton, alliance research and marketing specialist, and board member and Mount Olive Town Manager Charles Brown talk about the alliance's new website.

MOUNT OLIVE -- Could the old Cherry Hospital property one day provide Wayne County with the large industrial site now missing from its economic development toolbox? Or does the county need to look to a neighboring county to help develop such a site?

Those were among questions local business and industrial leaders asked Wednesday during the Wayne County Development Alliance's retreat held at the Sleep Inn in Mount Olive.

At the end of the session, attendees broke into small groups to discuss possible goals. The Development Alliance board will look at the lists of ideas and create specific goals.

"One of these is really an ongoing goal that we have had at least for one year, if not two," said Development Alliance Chairman Grey Morgan, whose group worked on product development goals. "A deficiency that we have right now is that we do not have a large site that would be available if we were to have an industry that was interested in Wayne County."

Morgan said he was speaking of a site of from 400 to 500 acres. That, he said, should be one of the Alliance's top priorities.

There is a lot of land in the county, but trying to pierce together a large site is "tough," said Joanna Helms, alliance president, noting that not only was the acreage a problem but that the site needed the right soil type and infrastructure such as natural gas, rail service and access to highways.

Board member Bob Kornegay suggested the county consider joining with an adjoining county to come up with such a site.

"I think that we need to think out of the box some and partner with another county. (Industry) may not necessarily be in Wayne County, but it could certainly benefit, job-wise, Wayne County," he said.

Mrs. Helms said the alliance had looked at multi-jurisdictional industrial parks and would continue to do so.

Another goal is to follow up on the old Cherry Hospital property, Morgan said.

"There is a lot of land out there that the state owns," he said. "We know that some of the buildings have asbestos problems, but still there is a lot of land that may be available. But it is time to sit down across the table with someone from the state, or the governor's office or (the state Department of) Commerce and find out if it is something worth pursuing.

"We need to go ahead and put it to bed as something that we want to pursue, or as something that we need to walk away from and look at something else."

Board member Kevin Kornegay spoke on education and workforce development.

"The first couple of things that we talked about even though it is an ongoing thing is how you look at the WORKS program that is in place," Kornegay said. "How do we look at a longer-range plan of what the project cost might be to keep that program viable and sustainable over say, the next two to five years -- what that cost is and where do we think those funds are going to come from?"

Secondly, the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) program is in place in all, but just two or three of the county's middle schools, he said. It has benefited recently through a Golden LEAF Foundation grant.

"How do we get the program into the three schools that we are missing?" Kornegay asked.

The third initiative would be to contact area manufacturers to see what they would be willing to do to help in that area, he said.

"They seem to be the people who benefit most from some of these programs, not only to help put in programs to train potential employees for them, but also to ensure the functionality of these programs that are existing, and can be kept in place going forward in the future," Kornegay said.

Neal Benton, Development Alliance vice chairman, spoke for the group that discussed external marketing and recruitment.

"Our top priority is our website which was part of the initiative last year," he said. "We are 90 percent finished, and it is going to be launched Feb. 1. Everything is going to be on there, the sites, everything about Wayne County."

Another goal would be a community coalition that would include the county, tourism, Goldsboro, Mount Olive and Chambers of Commerce.

"We just want to make sure that we all are pulling together and not going in separate directions," Benton said.

Bob Kornegay, who spoke on business retention and expansion, said the group was satisfied with existing strategies, but wanted to look specifically at a resource directory in both print and electronic form that would be linked to the alliance website. Kornegay said his group would like to see links to local industries, too.

The group also would like to see the ambassador program expanded.