Benson Wraps Up Strategy Sessions

First draft comes in June 

The Benson Board of Commissioners wrapped up the information seeking phase of their Strategic Economic Development planning Thursday night.

In addition, they also approved an additional loan from the USDA for funding of a new wastewater pump station.

The last of four sessions to get input from residents for the plan about the town’s economic future dealt with how the town should be branded.

Several topic areas were undertaken and the information received by both town officials and the North Carolina State University facilitators on hand was well-taken.

All of the information received during the series of town hall-style meetings will go into the plan, of which a first draft will be presented in late May.

“I think it’ll provide a nice path for Benson going forward in terms of things to keep in mind,” Dr. Bruce McDonald of N.C. State said. “And it will help bring industry into the community.”

Dr. Bruce McDonald from North Carolina State University addresses those in attendance at Thursday’s Economic Strategy Plan Development meeting in Benson. Dr. McDonald is one of the facilitators from N.C. State who are helping to develop a long-range economic development plan for the Johnston County town. Story and photo courtesy The Daily Record

Dr. McDonald says work on the plan has begun and says with the help of previous sessions, it’s nearly completed and a draft should be presented to the Benson Economic Development Committee by the first week in May.

“Each month we’ve been focusing on a different area,” he said. “What we’ve been doing is coming up with between three to five things for the town to do that can address that area.”

Dr. McDonald believes Benson will take the plan to heart and use it in a positive and effective manner.

“I think Benson is more likely to be the, ‘Hey, let’s go after it’ type of community,” Dr. McDonald said. “They’re likely to use it as a tool to going to a business and saying here’s what we’re doing. That way they can kind of incentivise or encourage new business to come in because they see the community as being more proactive.”

Which is exactly where Benson Mayor William Massengill hopes the report will take the town.

“I think the hard work starts now, trying to take all this information that we’ve got and try to come up with a workable plan,” the mayor said. “What I’ve said to (town manager) Matt (Zapp) is I don’t want a document that sits on somebody’s shelf and nothing happens to it.”

He expressed a desire to see the plan as something the town can and will implement and will be behind.

“We want something that has some real attainable goals, something people will buy into so there’s some short things and also the long term,” he said. “And not something so complex that it can’t be pulled off and achieved.”

From there the mayor hopes to see the EDC take the information, examine, study and learn from what they have been given.

“I think right now the real key will be going back and gleaning through the information and deciding where the key things we really need to target and do,” he said. “We certainly have some ideas, but you want to go back through it and also listen to the people from N.C. State to give us an outside opinion of what they think. But I’m excited about the possibilities.”

The first draft of the plan will be presented publicly in a meeting slated for 7 p.m. May 25.

Prior to Thursday’s economic discussion, the board of commissioners approved an additional loan of $266,000 from the USDA for the wastewater pump station project.

The addition loan amount will require a $1.50 increase to the base amount of water bills in Benson both in July and next year.

It will raise the base water rate to $10 on July 1 and $11.50 in July of 2018.