The Town of Benson has surpassed the Town of Smithfield and is now Johnston County’s second fastest growing municipality.
Clayton, by far, has the most commercial and residential growth in the county. The southernmost town of Benson now ranks second on the list.
The Towns of Smithfield and Selma have seen a good amount of commercial investment, however, Johnston County Economic Development Director Chris Johnson said, “Benson has had a good balance of industrial, commercial and residential (growth).”
Benson Town Manager Matt Zapp appeared before Johnston County Commissioners on Monday highlighting $70 million in commercial growth and $10 million in new residential development in the Benson area in the last 24 months. In addition, 200 new jobs have been created by new and expanding businesses.
Zapp says growth along the I-95 and I-40 corridor are fueling Benson’s growth. Groundbreaking was held in January for a new Hampton Inn. Zapp said the town is attempting to help land two restaurants to outparcels next to the motel.
Just last week Zapp said he fielded a call from a commercial developer who expressed interest in Benson.
“As a team, the Town of Benson committed itself to Economic Development,” Zapp said. “Following the housing bubble burst, the general economy began to improve. Benson needed to be in position to capitalize. The Town Board and Economic Development committee identified areas of strength, current needs, and future opportunities. Staff was then asked to develop a set of strategies to move our community forward. We invested in our water, sewer, electric, roadway and sidewalk systems. Lowering local electric rates played a strong role in our growth curve. Plus, a defined focus was placed on aesthetic improvements along Main Street and our interchange corridors.”
Teamwork And Community Pride
“Benson has great leadership – mayor and council – that is in sync with the town staff,” Johnson said. “Their internal communications and everyone working toward the same goals are phenomenal. This includes, elected officials, staff, volunteers, citizens and business leaders. The Town has a terrific working relationship with the Chamber of Commerce, local School System and business community. There is a genuine sense of community pride shared by all.”
Johnson said other local towns can learn from Benson’s success. “Having goals, working strategic planning and then putting the action items to work is the key. Much like baking a cake, some things can’t be microwaved quickly just because everyone wants it. Economic Development is the same way. Everyone in the Town seems to be faithful to completing the task in front of them, celebrating the small successes and then knowing that big things are on the horizon. Homeruns in baseball are exciting, however base hits win a majority of the games.”
“Obviously being at the cross roads of I-95 and I-40 is one of their many assets,” Johnson added. “However, I believe that as the 40-42 and McGee’s Crossroads area continues to fill in, Exit 325 is going to be a ground-zero for future development. There are few communities in the state that can say they are the third exit on an Interstate when you leave Raleigh.”
Zapp says more positive things will continue to happen in the Benson area.
“We anticipate that exceptional things will continue for Benson during the next 60-months. Our existing commercial-industrial buildings are nearly 100 percent full. So, the transfer of green acreage and new brick-mortar construction is expected. Additionally, we anticipate further improvements at I-95 Exit 79 and I-40 Exit 325 in the way of restaurants and hospitality services.”