10/23/13 — Fremont closes in on project list for state STEP grant proposals

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Fremont closes in on project list for state STEP grant proposals

By Matt Caulder
Published in News on October 23, 2013 1:46 PM

FREMONT -- The town of Fremont's Small Town Economic Prosperity grant committees met as a group Tuesday to discuss the projects they will put up for the Town Board's approval in December.

The teams will finalize their projects at their Nov. 12 and Dec. 10 meetings before the Town Board is set to vote on the proposed projects Dec. 17.

The deadline to present the projects to the state Department of Commerce for final approval is Dec. 31.

"With the holiday season things get really hectic so we need to make sure we are finalizing things now and at the next meeting," NC STEP Coordinator Oliver Bass said.

The four committees merged into two, one on attracting retirees and families to move to town and the other focused on expanding business opportunities for both new and existing businesses.

The business committee's focus is on identifying the type of businesses that could thrive in Fremont based on the findings of a "business leakage" study. The study would identify what types of businesses are not available in town, allowing dollars to "leak" out, and what niche markets Fremont could attract.

"The plan would search around and tell you what businesses weren't in a certain area," Executive Director of Eastern Carolina Council Judy Hills said.

The business study was estimated to cost about $15,000.

Another idea that gained traction in the business committee was for the town to appropriate $5,500 for the construction of a new welcome sign on N.C. 222 coming off of I-795 into town.

The town also discussed hiring a website designer to update the town website and train town employees in its use.

"We need someone who can update the site and make it better, maybe even replace it," Mayor W. Darron Flowers said.

The town expects to pay $4,000 for the website update.

Leading ideas from the housing committee included developing a branding study to look into how the town could market itself while still keeping the nickname of "The Daffodil Town."

"We don't want to change the name of the town, we just want someone who can build on that idea," Town Administrator Kerry McDuffie said.

Bass said that a branding study could just show the town how best to use the daffodil symbol and develop materials to complement it.

The committee expected to pay $15,000 to $20,000 for the study.

The housing committee also is looking to develop a housing packet to advertise Fremont for families and individuals looking for a home.

"I know people that don't live here only because they didn't know Fremont was here," McDuffie said. "The brochure is a key thing. Going forward that will be a key thing for the town."

The NC Rural Center awarded Fremont $25,000 for planning a host of projects aimed at revitalizing the town economically, and then once the projects are approved, the town would receive an additional $100,000 as seed money to fund the projects.

Earlier this year, questions were raised about the security of the $100,000 following an investigation into the Rural Center's use of funds and its programs being shifted to the state Department of Commerce. But town officials have been assured Fremont will still receive the money.