06/26/13 — STEP Committee weighs project ideas for Fremont

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STEP Committee weighs project ideas for Fremont

By Matt Caulder
Published in News on June 26, 2013 1:46 PM

FREMONT -- The Fremont STEP Committee met Tuesday night to discuss ideas for projects to present to the North Carolina Rural Economic Development Center for approval.

The state Small Town Economic Prosperity Program is providing the town $100,000 for projects to revitalize the town and make improvements to attract new business and residents to the area.

The town is in the process of compiling projects to send to the Rural Center and expects to finish within the next 4-6 months.

"The STEP people said it usually takes 9-12 months to get rolling after that," Town Administrator Kerry McDuffie said.

Several ideas were presented for discussion at the meeting. Among the more favored suggestions were forming a farmer's market one day a week and offering facade projects to businesses.

A facade project would provide a 50 percent match for downtown businesses that improve the front of their buildings.

Other ideas that received positive feedback were to create a brochure about Fremont, letting people know what is in town. It could be placed at various public centers around the area, with other advertisement options also mentioned.

McDuffie said the STEP Program tends to favor funding partial projects with local matches, usually 50 percent.

At the beginning of the meeting, McDuffie said that there are certain types of projects that the Rural Center is not interested in funding, mainly beautification projects.

"It would be nice to have hanging baskets and benches on Main Street but that is not what the center wants to fund," McDuffie said.

The STEP program also does not help with projects such as building energy-efficient homes on lots owned by the town to draw new families to the area, he added.

"Two-thirds of the houses in Fremont were built before 1960 and have no installation but the Rural Center will turn down an idea to build houses, though," McDuffie said.

But he said that just because the Rural Center may not be interested in a certain project that it does not make it a "bad project by any means."

McDuffie said that the Rural Center is interested in projects that lead to the creation of jobs.

There are four committees focusing on different aspects of Fremont, developing new businesses, developing current businesses, building community support for locally owned businesses and housing in Fremont.