BLADENBORO — Bladenboro has stepped up to the economic development table and joined the conversation.
At April’s meeting, the town commissioners decided to create the Bladenboro Economic Development Strategic Planning Committee. Comprised of three town commissioners, three Boost the ‘Boro members, and three at-large members, the group’s focus will be on creating and implementing a five-year plan for town expansion.
“The board decided they want to be more deliberate in economic development,” said Town Manager John O’Daniel.
After doing research, O’Daniel found opportunities to work with the Rural Center and use its expertise in development of the strategy. First, though, the Planning Committee wants input.
“We don’t want to go after certain things if the community doesn’t want them,” explained O’Daniel.
To that end, the committee is in the process of developing a survey to ascertain what kinds of things town residents would like to focus on. O’Daniel said whatever direction they receive from the community will be the focus on the long-term plan for the economic development of Bladenboro.
The project will not be without its challenges. The town of Bladenboro — with natural gas but limited sewer capacity — finds itself in the opposite situation from the town of Elizabethtown, which has sewer but no natural gas at its Industrial Park.
“We empty into a swamp, so that limits us,” explained O’Daniel. “We’ll definitely be talking about the Industrial Park and working with the county to see what we can do out there on the industrial side.”
With the imminent opening of Carroll Poultry, the town is “right where (they’re) comfortable” regarding sewer capability, so any economic development conversation about new growth would have to include discussion about the possibility of infrastructure expansion.
“That’s a big issue, and one we’ll definitely want some direction on from people in the community,” O’Daniel commented.
Also facing the new committee are vacancies created by Hurricane Matthew in the downtown area. Bladenboro Eye Clinic and Southeastern Medical Clinic both closed shop in the wake of flooding from the hurricane, and O’Daniel said he didn’t know if or when either one would re-open in town.
“Some places just thought it wasn’t worth cleaning up, or maybe they had already thought about moving and just didn’t re-open,” he explained.
Appointments have already been made to the new committee. Serving on the Economic Development Strategic Planning Committee are Commissioner Sarah Benson, Commissioner Cris Harrellson, and Mayor Rufus Duckworth, as well as Boost the ‘Boro president Don White and members Parst “Pete” Freeman, Claudette Guy, John Hasbrouck, Charles Ray Peterson, and Joseph Russ.
Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.