Dept. of Commerce proposes Aurora economic plan

Published 7:22 pm Monday, April 11, 2016

AURORA — The Town of Aurora is moving in a direction consistent with economic growth, thanks to the help of a state agency.

The Aurora Board of Commissioners met on April 4 to hear a proposal from the North Carolina Department of Commerce, involving a 5-year comprehensive economic plan, according to W.C. Boyd Jr., a town commissioner. The proposal was accepted by the board, with plans to meet with the DOC again in the near future to move forward with the process.

“Pretty much, it was unanimous that the whole board wanted to do this,” Boyd said. “At first, there was some discussion, but the last couple months, we all got on the same page. We passed a resolution, and (the process) should begin in the next month or so.”

The proposal includes the town appointing of five to seven community members to a steering committee, as well as identification of four major issues the town needs to examine to facilitate economic growth and prosperity, according to Lee Padrick, chief planner in the eastern regional office of DOC, based in Washington. The committee will, with input from the public and direction from the town’s board, identify the issues and come up with ways to meet goals for the next five years.

“We are at the point now where the town has asked for our assistance,” Padrick said. “They adopted a resolution at the meeting, and now, we’re waiting on a committee to be appointed. What we’ll get them to do is develop a handful of major issues that will move the needle on economic prosperity, with a five-year implementation plan to meet those goals. It’s a pretty straightforward process that we do with other towns, and we’re looking forward to working with them.”

Padrick said the DOC will meet with the town four times over the course of the spring and summer months, depending on how soon the committee is formed and how often the town is able to meet with DOC representatives.

“We’re looking at doing about four meetings in that process,” Padrick said. “Depending on the town’s schedule — I know they’re in budget season — we can do two (meetings) per month. But if we meet once a month, we’re looking at mid- to late-summer for the process to happen.”

Boyd said the town had an economic plan in 2008, but the majority of the board felt like the economic environment had changed significantly since. The town lost its only grocery store in April 2015, and since, residents have had limited access to fresh meat and produce. A goal in the bigger economic development picture is bringing a grocery store back to the area, Boyd said.

According to Eve Hemby, a community organizer with People For a Better Aurora/Richland Township, the plan will be a big progressive step in the right direction for the town. The loss of the town’s grocery store, Piggly Wiggly, is a symptom to a bigger disease economically the town is facing, Hemby said.

Hemby hopes the plan will not only give the town direction in tackling economic issues, but it will also bring residents together to form goals and spearhead various initiatives related to economic progress, she said.

“This plan isn’t the end,” Hemby said. “It’s a means to an end. It will provide the how-to for us to implement things in the future that could create economic development and growth. (The plan) is a means to an end of bringing people together around economic development issues, not just put a Band-Aid on a symptom but treat the disease fully. It will hopefully bring the community together so they can be the answer to the change they want to see. Once they see our community has agreed on a plan, they now find themselves a part of the plan.”