The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC

July 19, 2013

Twin Counties review, discuss vision and strategic plan


TARBORO — Collaboration was the theme of a meeting between the Edgecombe County Board of Commissioners, Rocky Mount City Council and Nash County Commissioners on Wednesday afternoon.

The three governing bodies gathered in the media center at Rocky Mount High School to review a Twin Counties Vision and Strategic Plan, the culmination of a two-year process.

“I’m just excited to see the three entities get together…You can do much more together than you can apart,” said Donald Boswell, member of the Edgecombe County Board of Commissioners and co-chair of the Community Partners Coalition, which worked to develop the plan.

“We need to be together in order to compete economically and grow as a region,” Boswell added. Along with creating a shared vision based on “quality of life goals” community members have for the region, the plan seeks to “position the Twin Counties Region to succeed in a globally competitive economy.”

Nearly 400 community members had input in the process, meeting in “study circles” to determine what needs must be addressed in the region. SKEO Solutions, a consulting firm, developed the plan based on the input from community members.

Boswell said the plan is only the beginning of a “long process” that he believes will have a direct impact on the region.

“Anytime you’ve got counties and cities working together, it makes an impact to the region,” said Leonard Wiggins, chair of the Edgecombe County Board of Commissioners. “Nash, Edgecombe, Rocky Mount – we’re tied together.”

The coalition asked for an endorsement of the plan by the three governing bodies in the near future. Wiggins asked Edgecombe County Manager Lorenzo Carmon to put the consideration for the endorsement of the plan on the agenda for the Aug. 5 commissioners meeting.

“I’m going to recommend that it be supported,” Wiggins said.

The plan outlines eight regional goals: aligning regional leadership, investing in crime prevention and safety, supporting a local food economy, investing in improved health and mental heath outcomes, investing in job creation and talent development, promoting a positive image of the region, raising the quality of life in underserved neighborhoods, and improving educational opportunities.

The coalition also developed the following vision: “The Twin Counties Region is a thriving crossroads of innovation where the broad talents and experiences of our many communities foster shared opportunities for educational achievement, economic success, healthy families, and welcoming neighborhoods.”

Wiggins said the Twin Counties and Rocky Mount’s decision to work together to create a shared vision and strategic plan stemmed from the “negative press” that the communities were receiving.

“We were becoming one of the most impoverished areas of the country,” Wiggins said. “It’s an effort to turn around the communities.”

In October 2009, Forbes magazine listed the Rocky Mount Metropolitan Statistical Area as one of the 10 most impoverished cities in America, as stated in the introduction to the Twin Counties plan.

“We don’t need to be one of the 10 most impoverished areas in America,” said Carmon. He wants outsiders to have the following positive impression of the region:

“It’s a good place to come and live and raise your children. You feel safe and you feel that there’s no other place in America that you want to live.”

That’s how Wiggins feels.

“I was born here. This is my home. I love my county and I don’t know anywhere else that I want to stay,” he said. “It’s a good place to stay and we have a responsibility to make it better.”

To Carmon, working together is the key to improving the region.

“If everybody’s going to collaborate and move these things forward, then we’ve hit a home run,” he told the crowd at Wednesday’s meeting.