Murfreesboro courts economic growth

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 22, 2005

MURFREESBORO – Nothing’s too big or too small.

That was the premise of an economic development brainstorming session held Thursday night at Chowan College to discuss what could be done to breathe new life into the once thriving Town of Murfreesboro.

Initiated through the Murfreesboro Chamber of Commerce under the direction of Lynn Johnson, head of the newly developed Economic Development Task Force, the meeting was comprised of representatives from Hertford County’s economic development division, local business owners, members of Murfreesboro Town Council, Chowan College administration and other citizens in the community.

The gathering offered an atmosphere for citizens to have a sounding board by which to bounce off ideas and exchange information about potential steps that could be taken towards bringing more businesses to the area.

&uot;I believe history repeats itself,&uot; said Johnson.

&uot;When the pendulum swings one way, eventually it has to come back. Murfreesboro used to be a lively town and I know change isn’t easy, but I believe it can happen if we pool our resources and work together,&uot; she said.

The meeting kicked off with attendees sharing results from spot surveys conducted prior to the meeting.

&uot;The feedback we received when we conducted these surveys was amazing,&uot; said John Tayloe, Director of Development at Chowan College who cited responses from 31 students and 37 faculty and staff members.

Among the top desired items were all-night establishments, family friendly restaurants with places that deliver and hotels.

&uot;Hotels are a huge thing,&uot; said Tayloe. &uot;We have over 50 families visiting the college this weekend and it’s embarrassing to have to tell them the nearest hotel is in another town.&uot;

Other items mentioned were a pool hall, bowling alley, 24-hour Waffle House, 7-11 convenient store, pizza place or other food service that offers delivery, movie or dinner theatre, buffet-style restaurant, bookstore, coffee shop, skating rink or other recreation center, a mall or other indoor place where seniors could benefit from an indoor climate-controlled atmosphere, playgrounds for kids, a dance floor, up scale business meeting place, antique retailers, a town square with a place to host outdoor concerts and developing the river front.

&uot;One thing we all have is the common thread of the desire for recreation, increased tourism and places of employment,&uot; said retired Murfreesboro resident and Diamond City Community Watch Program Coordinator Walter Thomas.

During the discussion, reference was made to previous plans that had been constructed regarding the revitalization of the town, but failed for one reason or another to become reality.

&uot;If we’re going to see any kind of fruit to our efforts, we need to find people that are willing to follow through,&uot; said Hertford County Economic Development Director Bill Early.

One of the ladies in the meeting suggested revisiting those plans. &uot;I don’t see any point in trying to reinvent the wheel,&uot; she said. &uot;If someone else has already plotted these things out, we need to consider that.&uot;

Early advised the task force to begin identifying what was lacking in the town, locating people to carry out the plans and compiling a data base of resources and buildings that might be available for habitation by future businesses including population statistics, demographics and other characteristics unique to the community.

He also suggested evaluating existing businesses as a model for success and researching others who have since closed their doors to determine potential downfalls.

Taking pride in the appearance of the community was also high on the list.

&uot;Even the smallest things matter,&uot; said Molly Eubank, Murfreesboro Town Administrator, referencing the importance of curb appeal in attracting businesses.

Question was raised as to whether or not the 600+ student base would be enough to support some of the businesses mentioned, however an increased interest in the college and a resurgence of families moving to the area offered hope.

&uot;Applications are up 500 percent,&uot; said Jonathan Ward, Vice President of Enrollment Management at Chowan College.

Citing that growth was predicted for the area, Ward added, &uot;I’m very interested in more retail businesses coming to the area because it makes marketing the college to potential students and their families that much easier.&uot;

&uot;The ideas are still there, we just need the right people willing to invest in them,&uot; said Eubank.

The group planned to meet again after following up on suggestions made in the meeting.

&uot;I believe anything worth doing is worth doing right,&uot; said Johnson.

The next meeting will be held at 7 p.m. on February 10 in the Chowan Room.