Editor and Publisher
John H. Walker
On the heels of the news that drug chain Walgreens will be opening a store in Tarboro in the next 12-to-15 months, there is other news of an improving economy, as well.
“In addition to the major expansion projects at the (Vidant Edgecombe) hospital, Superior Essex and Hillshire (formerly Sara Lee) Brands, we’ve actually seen a little up tick in residential construction,” explained Tarboro town manager Alan Thornton.
Thornton said Goodlettsville, Tenn.-based Dollar General, which already has stores at 1110 Western Blvd., and 2111 Saint Andrew St., is interested in finding an additional location in the community.
Town planner Josh Edmondson said there was a multi-family housing development in the works for the Hunter Hill Road area, but that there was nothing official under way yet.
“We’ve talked with the engineers in regards to their plans, but nothing else,” he said.
In addition to the news about brick and mortar issues, Thornton said year-to-date sales tax receipts — officially known as State-collected Local Government Revenue — was up over the same period a year ago and that he felt that was a good sign that the economy was improving.
Thornton said there are a couple of retail-based efforts under way, including an evaluation of the available properties in Tarboro by Electricities.
“They have an economic development person who works with retail and they have been here, driven around town and observed what we have,” he said. “At their request, we are compiling an inventory of available properties to send to them as we look at ways to grow our community.”
The town is also looking at ways to try and revamp the Main Street program.
“We want to breathe some new life into it,” Thornton said. “Whatever we can do to make it better, we will. We want downtown to be healthy and continue to grow.”
Thornton said one part of the downtown equation is to make it “an experience … not just a trip to one store. We have an ambiance that many communities do not and we have our history on which to draw — we simply need to enhance what we have and make the most of it.”
Thornton, now in his second year as town manager, says he frequently reminds people that Tarboro has a distinct advantage in its downtown because it is still active and draws traffic.
“There are many places where that is not the case,” he said.
He added that one of the questions being posed in the research of Main Street is, “How do you expand what downtown has to offer? We want to get the business owners involved in this process.”
He also said the town is working to address the issue of vacant and deteriorating properties, although there are legal limits as to what can be done.
“We want to make sure they are not a deterrent to downtown and we want to do all we can to get them back on the market.”
One unoccupied building that has been spruced up on the outside, the circa 1919 Colonial Theater, is currently in Phase I of its renovation project. Workers with O’Neal Contracting are building an addition to the back of the facility, which will add dressing rooms, expand the stage and enclose the building so that interior work can get under way.
The theater is owned by the Edgecombe County Military Veterans Museum.
Thornton said the initial feedback he has gotten from downtown businesses regarding the relocation of the Health Department and DSS has been good.
“I haven’t talked with everyone, but those I have spoken with say they have seen an increase in traffic in the stores and seem pleased. By and large, it has been a plus.”