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County board pushing for economic growth

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SMITHFIELD — Johnston County must continue its focus on economic development.

Ted Godwin, chairman of the Johnston County Board of Commissioners, issued that challenge during his State of the County address during the Jan. 7 board meeting.

“Certainly, new investment enhances the property tax base, but more importantly, these investments provide jobs,” said Godwin. “We will continue to market Johnston County to the world and we will continue to maintain great working relationships with our existing industry partners and encourage their expansions.” Godwin said 2018 was a good year for economic development in Johnston County.

“I am pleased to say that in 2018, the board approved four economic development incentive grants to growing companies in our county,” said Godwin. “I would like to emphasize that these grants are no-risk incentives. They are not paid until the new investment has been made, the promised jobs have been created and taxes have been paid on the new investment.”

The county also saw improvements in mental health services, said Godwin.

“The merger with Alliance Behavioral Health was completed in 2018. We are partners with Wake, Durham and Cumberland counties,” said Godwin. “The board recognizes the importance of mental health services for our citizens and part of the merger agreement included a provision that Alliance would have an office in our county. Today, they are located in the former mental health offices on Brightleaf Boulevard in Smithfield.”

With economic growth comes the challenge of providing the necessary infrastructure for new businesses and industries.

“Our success in economic development, however, also brings pressure on our infrastructure from traffic congestion to water and sewer capacity limits,” said Godwin. “Many of our citizens in the high-growth areas of the county are already experiencing frustrations and difficulties associated with growth. Addressing these concerns and finding a balanced solution must be one of the highest priorities of this board.”

Fiscal responsibility will continue to be a priority for the county board, said Godwin.

“We must remain fiscally responsible and always recognize that it is the taxpayers’ money we are managing,” said Godwin. “Our goal as a board has always been to reach the AAA bond rating and we are only one step away. I really believe that will become a reality in the very near future.”

Godwin said the county received a clean audit for the 2016-17 fiscal year.

“The board adopted the fiscal year 2017-18 budget, and for the 20th straight year, did not raise the property tax rate,” said Godwin.

Godwin expressed appreciation to Johnston County voters for approving bond referendums last November for Johnston County Public Schools and Johnston Community College.

“A big thank you goes to Johnston County citizens as the recent bond referendums for Johnston County Public Schools and Johnston Community College were approved,” said Godwin. “This is the sixth consecutive set of bond referendums that have passed since 1999. These bonds have provided funds for much-needed capital improvements with attractive financing terms.”

One long-awaited project has been the new Johnston County Law Enforcement Center, which will be located on U.S. 70 East near Yelverton Grove Road. Godwin credited the town of Smithfield for its assistance.

“The board selected and purchased a site for the new public safety center. We thank the town of Smithfield for rezoning the property to accommodate this facility and we look forward to being good neighbors to the property owners in that area,” said Godwin. “We also believe that this location not only adequately serves our need for a new detention center, but will also be a catalyst for growth east of Interstate 95. We anticipate the project to be completed by 2022.”