Rocky Mount spurs economic growth as it breaks ground on community facility

ROCKY MOUNT — For a community that refers to itself as “the city on the rise,” the newest addition to the town is poised to rise up from the dirt as Rocky Mount broke ground on its long-awaited Downtown Community Facility.”This has been a good process for us. We have vetted this project and spent a lot of time and effort to finally break ground on this project that will be a great opportunity for the city of Rocky Mount,” said Mayor David Combs.Four years ago, the Rocky Mount City Council began a quest to spur economic growth and invigorate the downtown area with cost projections totaling $41 million. Downtown Rocky Mount covers about 2.5 square miles, including the original 1 square mile that was first incorporated in 1867. More than 130 local businesses are based in the area, with approximately 50 providing retail sales and services for residents and tourists.”People thought this day would never come, but the City Council never gave up and never lost its faith,” said City Manager Charles Penny. “It took a lot of people working together to get to this day.”Combs said the city’s plans follow a blueprint for success.”This is a model that other cities have done throughout the state and country and that is making public investments particularly in their downtown area,” said Combs. “It is an economic development project. We know the private investment will follow. It has already started here in Rocky Mount with people who are supporting this project because they want to make investments in Rocky Mount. We know this will help invigorate our downtown.”Adding a community facility in the heart of downtown seems logical as the community’s growth continues to flourish. Sports and tourism are a large driving factor for the Twin Counties, which is comprised of Nash and Edgecombe, with Nash County playing host to a collection of sports tournaments. In 2015, the city reports the economic impact of tourism for the Twin Counties totaled $332.2 million, providing approximately 3,340 jobs and $62.6 million in payroll, along with $26.2 million in combined local and state tax receipts.Tourism has experienced an annual growth of 3 to 3.5 percent over the past several years, and projected estimates for 2016 are $343.5 million.The Downtown Community Facility is designed with sports in mind to capitalize on the growing sports tourism industry. The community facility will hold 5,000 seats and include telescopic seating. There will also be eight basketball courts than can be converted into 16 volleyball courts; ropes course; climbing wall; removable flooring suited for trade shows and concerts; family entertainment center; and portable concession stands.”This facility will be one-of-a-kind, particularly in the state of North Carolina,” said Combs.In addition, the Opportunities Industrialization Center (OIC) of Rocky Mount, a federally qualified health center, will open an urgent care clinic within the facility.”The OIC has a long history in our community of over 40 years and we appreciate them being a partner with us on this project,” said Penny.”Over the last year, OIC as a medical facility has served over 8,000 people in our community,” said Dr. Tisa Roberts, OIC medical director. “We have taken care of 24,000 encounters and taken care of 800 women needing mammograms who were underinsured or without insurance.”With a clinic located inside the Downtown Community Facility, more mammograms will be provided for women, an urgent care is planned and services will be offered to those on site in sporting events.”We are looking forward to this partnership with the city to take better care and provide more care for people in the city,” said Roberts.The Downtown Community Facility is 175,000 square feet covering 12 acres of Rocky Mount.