The Smithfield Selma Chamber of Commerce went on record Monday in support of a CSX Terminal in Johnston County.
Chamber President Rick Childrey said the decision was made after “a lot of research.” Childrey said the Executive Board meet on Monday and prepared the statement. The board said the mission of the chamber is to promote and inform their membership as well as the community of new economic growth opportunities.
“Standing behind this mission, the Chamber Board of Directors “fully supports the placement of the CSX Intermodal terminal in Johnston County.” Our responsibility includes researching the project and all of its many facets, and that research has determined that CSX has greatly benefited the communities into which they expanded, as well as their surrounding areas. While the project brought new job opportunities within CSX, other related businesses also relocated to the region to take advantage of the HUB. In addition, the local community saw more investment in roads and infrastructure. Our Chamber supports such growth!”
“The Greater Smithfield-Selma Area Chamber of Commerce is fully committed to ensuring that our members, our community and this county have full benefit of the information needed to advance our economic growth. With that commitment in mind, we support this project and look forward to the strong economic impact it will bring to Johnston County and our great state.”
Childrey told WTSB News, “It’s a great economic development project and we would like to see it come to Johnston County. We encourage people to let their elected officials know that.”
While the chamber went on record in support of the CSX project they did not take a position on the location. “It’s up to the railroad and the people involved to decide where the best location is.”
Lassiter Disappointed By Decision
Trent Lassiter, general manager of The Farm, an entertainment venue, has been opposed to the CSX project’s initial location, between Selma and Micro, because his family would lose their farmland and business. Lassiter and many of his neighbors are fearful their property would be taken through eminent domain.
After learning about the Chamber’s announced Monday afternoon, Lassiter said he was disappointed. “The Farm has been a member of the Chamber of Commerce since we opened our doors in 2013. As of now we are pulling our membership. There are two sides to this project. I think a lot of Rick and his staff at the chamber of commerce but at this point it is best to pull our membership.”
Lassiter said he is in favor of the CSX terminal locating where people are willing to sell their land but is opposed to any location where property would be taken by eminent domain. “If they can find a landowner or landowners where they want to sell that’s fine. But they don’t need to do it somewhere they need eminent domain to do their project.”
As for the Chambers endorsement of the project today, Lassiter said, “I’m not trying to burn any bridges. They have a job to do to promote the county. I understand that. For us as a chamber member there is a difference between economic growth and smart economic growth. I don’t feel like this is smart.”
CSX officials have said little about their future plans since Johnston County Commissioners pulled their support for the project over the eminent domain issue on January 20th. At the meeting, County Commissioner Chairman Tony Braswell said, “We work hard for economic development but not for citizens and communities where they do not want it. We are not going to do it at the expense of citizens we represent.”
Economic Development Director Reaction
After Monday’s announcement, Chris Johnson, Economic Development Director for Johnston County told WTSB News, “I am confident that every citizen in Johnston County knows the importance and supports the creation of jobs.”
“Whether it is manufacturing, agricultural, medical, small business or transportation related, the Johnston County Economic Development welcomes all levels of dialog regarding the economic direction of Johnston County,” Johnson said.