The city of Rocky Mount will get help with projects to stimulate job growth, revitalize blighted neighborhoods, and move grocery stores to areas that don’t have any from a team of federal experts that will work with the city for at least a year.
City administrators will get full-time help from two employees of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and from a team of outside consultants who are experts in subjects such as economic development, local and federal officials said Thursday.
Rocky Mount is one of seven cities across the country that were especially hard-hit by the recession of 2008 and the federal housing department is targeting for economic development. The unemployment rate in Rocky Mount is 12.8 percent, more than four points higher than the state average
“We are very aware of the poverty rate in our community,” said Assistant City Manager Tasha Logan. “Before these issues become so large that we can’t get our hands wrapped around them, we want to make sure that we are addressing them and being pro-active.”
The efforts are a continuation of an effort launched in 2011 by government and business leaders in Rocky Mount and neighboring Edgecombe and Nash counties for economic growth in the region, Logan said.
What kind of growth?
The emphasis on job growth includes creating work training opportunities by helping Edgecombe Community College create a biotechnology center and Nash Community College create a clean lab for medical use, Logan said.
Areas referred to as food deserts, meaning there is little or no access to large food retailers there, include sections of the city in Edgecombe County, Logan said. Objectives include extending the city’s farmers’ market there or helping a grocery store move there so residents can have access to fresh food.
Neighborhoods being targeted for revitalization include the former Clairmont Apartments complex, which is being considered for redevelopment, and the historic West Haven neighborhood, Logan said. Two of the housing objectives are to attract young families and have neighborhoods with mixed incomes.
The federal housing department helped other cities, including Greensboro, complete projects through its Strong Cities, Strong Communities initiative. In Fresno, Calif., federal experts helping there were credited with helping shepherd the city’s successful application for a $16 million grant to revamp its business district.