Roanoke Center looks to expand

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 2, 2005

Stephanie Duffey

JACKSON – Less than a month away from celebrating its one-year anniversary of existence, the Roanoke Center is looking to expand its facilities here last week.

In a meeting with the Northampton County Commissioners, Community Development Director Diana Mitchell asked for permission to submit a proposal that would give the Roanoke Center an opportunity to secure up to $400,000 in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds for the construction of additional small business and entrepreneurial incubator office spaces.

Following a brief public hearing on the matter, Mitchell explained that the Entrepreneurial Incubator grants would provide ‘bricks and mortar’ funding to expand space in existing incubator settings, enabling small entrepreneurial business to prosper.

&uot;Currently, all of the spaces we have are full,&uot; she said.

According to Mitchell, the expansion, which has the support of Dave Merrick Director of the Small Business Center at Roanoke Chowan Community College, would stimulate business growth and create jobs.

Upon request from the Board of Commissioners, Northampton County Manager Wayne Jenkins advised that should the county place its stamp of approval on the Roanoke Center’s request, the county would maintain an obligation to allow the funds to flow through the county.

&uot;When and if we come to the final stages of this grant being awarded, keep in mind that the county would still bear the financial responsibility for administration of the funds,&uot; he said, noting that choosing to do so would not be a problem for the county.

&uot;I think it is in the best interest of the county to be helpful to such organizations that seek to improve the quality of life of our citizens,&uot; he said.

Commissioner James Hester inquired whether there was a correlation between the amount of funds invested in a venture such as this and the number of jobs provided.

&uot;I read somewhere that for every $10,000 invested, there was approximately one job created, so if this project stands to see the investment of $400,000 would that mean an extra 40 jobs,&uot; Hester inquired.

&uot;With the clients we’re seeing, I don’t see why not,&uot; Mitchell responded.

If awarded the grant, the Roanoke Center plans to add an additional seven to 10 office spaces.

Mitchell said the Roanoke Center would use its existing support services to help carry out the day-to-day functions of the incubator with Roanoke Electric Cooperative (REC) overseeing the project’s daily operation.

If awarded the grant, Mitchell said REC will have 18 months to get the facilities in order and up to speed and three years to get current with job requirements.

The award would not count against the county’s $1.25 million CDBG cap.

The CDBG Economic Development program in North Carolina is designed to help low and moderate income persons by creating and retaining jobs.

The incubator programs are designed to help create jobs and retain businesses in the community, enhance its entrepreneurial climate, build or accelerate growth in local industry and diversify local economies.

The deadline for the pre-application was due April 1.