Donna Phillips returns to her roots

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 2, 2005

MURFREESBORO – Yes, Donna, you can come home again.

Visiting the town she proudly calls home, Donna Phillips Askew was the featured speaker here Tuesday night at the 53rd annual Murfreesboro Chamber of Commerce banquet.

Askew, the daughter of Don and Paula Phillips, now lives in Winterville and is employed with the Greenville Division of the North Carolina Department of Commerce. There, she serves as an Industry Specialist and Senior Economic Developer.

Speaking before a capacity crowd gathered in the Chowan Room on the campus of Chowan College, Askew said being in the room was like attending a family reunion.

&uot;I see so many faces here tonight that have inspired my life and my career,&uot; Askew said. &uot;It’s a gift to be from this town. I’ve had the opportunity to travel all over the world in my job, but there’s no place like home. I feel I was given such a great gift being raised in Murfreesboro around so many warm and caring people.&uot;

Echoing the same thoughts she shared earlier on Tuesday with a newly created group of Murfreesboro residents seeking to spark economic growth in the town, Askew narrowed what she called &uot;the complex business of economic development&uot; to the three R’s.

&uot;It’s all about recruitment, retention and readiness,&uot; she noted.

In the area of recruitment, Askew said promotion of the Murfreesboro community was the key ingredient.

&uot;Don’t be bashful, go out and promote yourself by letting people know all about Murfreesboro and what you have to offer,&uot; Askew said. &uot;You are in competition with the whole world because of what is now a global economy.&uot;

Askew went on to address the other key points of recruitment – participating in state-sponsored activities, finding what best suits the needs of the town’s and area’s citizens and advertising.

&uot;Because Murfreesboro is a small town, you have to find a niche, something special about the town in order to set yourself apart from others competing for the same types of businesses,&uot; she said.

Askew said that particular niche could be Chowan College.

&uot;You are sitting on a gold mind with the college right here in your front yard,&uot; noted Askew. &uot;I see Chowan as perhaps your biggest asset. It’s drawing students from across the nation and from foreign counties and, from what I understand, those students are applying for enrollment here in record numbers. As Chowan grows, so does Murfreesboro.&uot;

In the area of retention, Askew said that, according to a 2004 survey, 70 percent of jobs statewide were thanks to existing businesses.

&uot;Local businesses are the bread and butter of the community,&uot; she said. &uot;Use every resource at your disposal to help them grow. Use them to promote the town.&uot;

Readiness, she said, was being prepared to immediately have answers to questions posed by potential new business owners.

&uot;When a new face shows up at your door, shopping for a new location for their business, be ready to showcase the town,&uot; Askew said. &uot;I would suggest investing in product development. Let your county Economic Director know of what properties are available. You also need to know what your local labor force is able to handle.&uot;

Askew added that readiness also included having incentives on standby in order to entice a new business.

&uot;I would also strongly suggest that you, the Chamber, work very closely with town officials, the new economic group here in town and your county officials,&uot; she closed. &uot;Together, you can make things happen.&uot;

The annual banquet also featured three awards.

Mary Etta Flowers was presented the Sammy Doughtie Community Service Award, named for the late Station Manager at WDLZ-FM in Murfreesboro.

Beverly Warrick, Librarian at Murfreesboro’s Elizabeth Sewell Parker Library, earned the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald Front Page Award.

Betty Francis, an honorary lifetime member of the Murfreesboro Chamber, took home the Chamber of Commerce Award.

In his remarks, Murfreesboro Chamber President Bill Stephens said the time was right for the town to grow.

&uot;Murfreesboro is on the move,&uot; he said. &uot;The new economic group is meeting on a regular basis and we welcome one and all to come and share ideas with us. Come join us as we discuss Murfreesboro’s bright future.&uot;

Stephens recognized the other Chamber of Commerce officers for 2005-06 – John Taylor (vice president), Joan Hunter (secretary) and Debbie Edwards (treasurer).

Jennifer Moore serves the Chamber as its Executive Director. She also is secretary of the Chamber’s Women’s Division – an organization led by Betz Blowe (president), Hunter (vice president) and Joyce Hutchinson (treasurer).