Town to work with state agency for economic strategy

Published 6:43 pm Monday, March 14, 2016

AURORA — The Town of Aurora has asked for help from the North Carolina Department of Commerce to create a comprehensive economic plan facilitating growth in Aurora and Richland Township.

The Aurora Board of Commissioners passed a resolution to the effect at its March 7 meeting, according to W.C. Boyd Jr., a town commissioner.

Representatives from DOC’s NC Rural Planning Center, the state agency for workforce, community and economic development, will be coming to the town’s next board meeting on April 4 to discuss how Aurora can better position itself to improve job creation opportunities and promote economic prosperity, according to a proposal sent to the town by the agency. The agency provides technical assistance across the state, primarily in economic development planning, according to the proposal.

In the proposal, the agency suggests the town create an economic development plan on a five-year timetable to identify major issues, as well as develop a plan of action to address these issues, which will, in turn, better position the town for grant opportunities and provide a framework for job creation and economic development.

Community organizer Eve Hemby, who heads an organization made up of community members, People for a Better Aurora/Richland Township, said the N.C. Department of Commerce’s positive response to her requests for assistance was based on the town’s board of commissioners reaching out to the Department, Hemby said.

“It’s so important we get this plan done. I think bringing in the (DOC) is a small victory for us to be able to have bigger victories later,” Hemby said.

The request for the Department’s aid is a result of the town suffering economic setbacks over recent years, including the loss of its only grocery store in April 2015. If the town board accepts the proposal during the April 4 meeting, DOC officials will work closely with Aurora over the next six months to put the plan in motion. A public meeting will then be held to gather feedback on the town’s identified issues, according to the proposal.

Aurora officials have agreed to let DOC representatives use the Aurora Community Center as office space while on the job, Hemby said.

DOC will provide its services free of charge, according to the proposal. However, there is a small fee of $447, which includes travel expenses, meals and the cost of materials to display the plan for the public such as charts, copies of the plan and other graphics, the proposal states.

“It’s time for our community to take a proactive role in facilitating economic growth in our community,” Hemby said. “We’ve been reacting to the grocery store closing, businesses failing, as opposed to creating a plan to navigate what we need to do to keep those things from happening.”

Boyd said some on the board believe the town needs job creation through economic development, but Boyd believes the current No. 1 priority should be to get a grocery store back in the area.

“I believe that’s the No. 1 thing we need to do,” Boyd said. “(No grocery store) is not only hurting people in the community, but also those in outlying areas of the Richland Township. I’m hoping (DOC) will see that this community needs a grocery store.”