POSITIONED TO PROSPER
During 2016, the Town of Selma made strong progress in many areas. Selma is positioned to prosper as never before.
In last year’s State of the Town Address, I mentioned the demolition of the Regency Inn on the I-95 Corridor at Exit 97 and spoke about how that opened up highly visible and valuable real estate for redevelopment. Since that time, this property plus the adjoining Shell Station property has been purchased by New Dixie Oil. A groundbreaking ceremony for a new gas station and convenience mart that will replace the Shell Station is scheduled for next week on January 17th. In addition, the property owner is eager to develop the former Regency Inn Property. These improvements to one of our major gateways will enhance the perception of our town. Last year I also highlighted the growth being experienced at our Johnston County Industries. It is now among the Top 20 Employers in Johnston County.
In addition, other growth has occurred within the past year. Highlights include:
- Expansions at DeWayne’s, Bailey Feed Mill, and Marathon Petroleum
- Newly remodeled Waffle House with new staff
- New businesses include:
A 2nd Selma Family Dollar Store
Raiford Street Seafood
CarsList Automotive Sales & Repair
- Renovation of an Uptown Selma Building to be our new Town Hall
- Our Selma Fuel Depot continues to grow and is considered the location of choice by major fuel distributors such as ECO Energy who has established an Intermodal Transfer Facility there.
One of the disappointing events of 2016 was the closing of the SONA facility in our Oak Tree Business Park on Noble Street and the associated loss of jobs. I am very pleased to announce that this facility was purchased in late December by Warm Forging, a company headquartered in India. The new business will be known as Selma Precision Technologies, LLC. Since they will be a global company, Selma will be known around the world. When further details are available, our Economic Development Director will share them.
There are many more signs of positive growth that I could cite but the bottom line is that developers continue to invest in Uptown Selma, our Business Park, and the I-95, Hwy 70 (soon to be I-42), and Hwy. 301 corridors.
During 2016 our tax base grew by approximately 20 million dollars. We are moving in the right direction. I say again…Selma is positioned to prosper as never before.
The Town of Selma received a clean audit for the 2015-16 Fiscal Year. Operating cash flows increased from approximately $319,000 in the prior year to $1,211,000. This is a positive indicator that bodes well for the ongoing maintenance and growth of our town. That being said, the audit also confirmed that work continues to be needed to improve the profitability of our utilities. This area is receiving, and will continue to receive, much attention from our Council and Town Staff.
Any State of the Town Address this year probably should include a comment about the CSX Intermodal Hub Project.
There has been plenty of talk about why Johnston County was not selected as the site for this project. There has been a lot of finger pointing. I want you to know that the Town of Selma worked all levels from the Governor’s Office on down trying to get objective due diligence done on the Selma-Micro site. Early on after the announcement was made regarding our area being selected, it was clear that the initial CSX plan was not going to come to fruition here. We, along with others, stayed close to key officials and tried to ensure the project would stay in NC. On that, we were successful. After the announcement regarding Rocky Mount being selected, I received calls from CSX and NCDOT Rail thanking me for the support Selma provided in encouraging CSX to stay in NC. Chris Johnson, our Johnston County Economic Development Director, has said that when it was first announced that the hub would be coming to our area, Rocky Mount was the first to congratulate us and say how happy they were that it was going to be nearby. When I in turn congratulated Mayor Combes in Rocky Mount, he too commented on the benefits to our region. He also confirmed that no residents had to leave their homes to provide land for the Hub.
Last year, my State of the Communities Address was entitled “Beyond The Boundaries.” I still believe it is important for all of us to be linked to those outside of the lines of our towns and county. In regards to the CSX Project, if we think “Beyond The Boundaries” perhaps we came out okay. When the controversy began, everyone was saying that this was the project that no one wanted in their backyard but that everyone wanted to be near. Well…isn’t that what happened? One of the Requests for Information that was received by the Johnston County Economic Development Office shortly after the CSX announcement specified a desire to be within 50 miles of the CSX Intermodal Hub. We meet that criteria. Based on what we know about growth that has occurred near other CSX hubs, many similar RFI’s will follow.
North/South and East/West railways, interstate access, our Selma Crossings and Oak Tree Business Park Certified Sites, etc. are still here…and are more valuable than ever before.
What do we need to do to maximize our assets and keep Selma moving forward?
First, to makes strides in Economic Development, the report card grades for our schools must improve. Families do not want to move to an area where the schools have poor grades and when prospective businesses see the grades, they assume that they will not be able to attract a talented workforce. As I stated last year, we have to come together as towns, Commissioners, school board, and school officials to implement, not just talk about, ways to make success viable for all schools. The infrastructure needs of our older schools must be met and not sacrificed at the expense of building new schools. Our new Johnston County Schools Superintendent, Ross Renfrow, has publicly acknowledged this and committed to improving the state of our older schools. Our County Commissioners have likewise indicated support for such improvement. We need to ensure that there are comparable facilities and technology on each campus. To that end, Title 1 Funds that are supposed to be used for high poverty schools should be given to high poverty schools instead of being distributed equally across all schools.
In addition to improving our schools, we need to aggressively pursue corporations and industries for our certified sites and other available properties. To facilitate this marketing effort, the Town of Selma will:
- Have a Staff member that will focus on keeping existing businesses and residents and aggressively marketing Selma to prospective businesses and residents. Council has allocated budget dollars required for this. Staffing this position must be given high priority.
- Continue infrastructure projects related to Water/Sewer, Electric, Street Paving and Resurfacing, and sidewalks. We are working with NCDOT to improve state roads in our town, to improve traffic flow, prepare for future growth, and to add sidewalks to enhance pedestrian safety.
- Update our Town Code to aid our ability to maintain a safe, attractive, and inviting town for residents and businesses. This information will also be better organized so that citizens, businesses, and developers can easily obtain information that they need.
- Add wayfinding signs that visually tie the town together.
- Continue to strive for operational excellence. We have a great team. How do know that?
- Let’s reflect on Hurricane Matthew. Our power stayed on throughout the storm. Our first responders conducted over 200 water rescues in a manner that ensured the safety of our citizens.
- Even when there are not storms, on a regular basis we receive letters and comments from both citizens and visitors regarding the professionalism and caring spirit of all our first responders.
- Other Fire Departments, from places such as Charlotte, come to Selma to learn from our firefighters.
- Our Electric System experiences few outages and when theydo occur they are fixed quickly.
- Our Parks and Recreation and Library employees frequently receive accolades from our citizens and visitors regarding the quality of their services and events.
In Selma, the goal of all our departments is not customer satisfaction but customer delight.
We continue to have caring citizens who render untold hours of volunteer service throughout our town. With smiles on their faces and love in their hearts, they are seen delivering Meals on Wheels, participating in Arms Around Selma service projects, supporting our Parks and Recreation activities, serving on Town Committees, staffing food banks, being lunch buddies with our elementary school students, leading scout troops, and so much more.
There is another way for all of our citizens and businesses to help our town reach its potential. That is to believe in our town and promote a positive image of it. Sometimes we can be our own worst enemy. We know our faults and shortcomings and that is important if we are going to improve on them. However, we also have strengths and we need to build on those and market to them aggressively.
We are entering a year of many special events in honor of Selma’s 150th Anniversary! This is a great time to celebrate our heritage, bring increased vitality to our present, and build excitement about our future. Our 150th Anniversary Committee is striving to have events for all ages and interests. Be sure to join in. Get excited about our town. We have every reason to do so.
Again I say…Selma is positioned to prosper as never before.
May God continue to bless our special town of Selma, North Carolina.
Cheryl Oliver, Mayor