Rocky Mount needs industry more than it needs an event center

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We’ve been residents of Rocky Mount for 18 years. We’ve seen it awarded All- American City status and we’ve seen the industrial base leave town. We’re now in serious financial straits. Is the catalyst to recovery an event center? I think we’ve got the cart before the horse.

In the recent presentation by AECOM, mention was made of the new event centers in Allentown and Evansville. By sheer coincidence, my family is from Allentown, and my wife grew up in Evansville. We know these communities well. There should be no comparison made between these areas and Rocky Mount. These event centers are being built in locations that have a much higher chance to succeed because of the economics of the areas.

I don’t know if the event center in Allentown, Pa., (the PPL Center) will be a success, but there are 821,000 people in the Lehigh Valley. It is the fastest growing area of Pennsylvania.

The event center was supposed to cost $177 million dollars. Now that it’s close to opening (in September) the total cost looks like $234 million.

The financing for the center is an extremely complex funding structure. After 30 years, the debt service will total close to a half a billion dollars. The event center is designed to be the centerpiece in the city’s downtown revitalization. It includes offices and a hotel complex.

The center will be home to a minor league hockey team. The city is excited about the center, but is up against a huge financial burden. Will it work to revitalize Allentown?

They are betting it will – and they have a lot more going for them economically than we do, despite paying more than twice the property taxes we pay here.

The Evansville Ford Center has had its detractors aplenty. Even though Evansville has a strong economic base that includes Bristol-Myers, Toyota, Alcoa and riverboat gaming, they expect their first full year losses to be more than $300,000. Their greatest financial hopes are that the center will “break even.” About half of the financing is coming from the city’s lucrative gaming revenues. In their general metropolitan area, they have more than 311,000 people.

We don’t compare to these areas. The overriding factor that makes them different is they are far healthier economically than we are. The event centers are more like icing on the cake for these two areas. For us it’s a wild-ride risk.

And how to we get back to economic health? By focusing all our economic development efforts on attracting business back to Rocky Mount. I’m not talking about more restaurants or goods and services. We need to make things, again! The engine that will bring us back to prosperity is driven by industry, manufacturing and business. Remember how healthy we were when we were flush with industry – before we lost most of our industrial base? One speaker at the citizens meeting said there was no chance we’d ever see industry return to Rocky Mount. Well, we’d better make certain we find industries to come to Rocky Mount! All of our economic development efforts need to work toward this goal.

It’s easy to tax citizens and their property and to issue bonds to pay for event centers. But the possibilities are frought with huge risks and potentially minimal payback for the citizens of Rocky Mount who have to pay for this gamble. The difficult work that we must do is to find the industries that are willing to invest in Rocky Mount.

With industry comes jobs. Jobs create income and subsequent spending on goods and services, and so on in the great economic cycle of success. Real income growth starts from the unlimited generating power of business and industry creating and sustaining jobs. Has our economic development council given up? Is the event center our last resort?

The amazing byproducts of economic health are stabler families, fewer drug problems, less violence, better schools, stronger churches, self-respect and jobs for everyone willing to work. Once all this is achieved for Rocky Mount, then let’s talk about an event center – not before.

Jim Yeager

Rocky Mount

Comments

Excellent Letter……………………….............

Mr. Yeager, your letter is excellent and right on point is all areas.

Mr. Yeager, what you and everyone who has presented a rational approach to addressing the problems of the City of Rocky Mount are forgetting is that the City of Rocky Mount has a city management and a city council that are looking through a prism of racism. Their point of view is that if you do not agree with them or support them then you are a racist.

Most of the things the Rocky Mount City Council has done in the last decade have been detriments to the City of Rocky Mount and the citizens of Rocky Mount. Even their beloved Imperial Centre is a detriment to the City of Rocky Mount and its citizens. The Imperial Centre is still costing all taxpayers an extreme amount to keep it open. The fees for usage of the Imperial Centre are not paying the bills to maintain and operate the Imperial Centre.

The Rocky Mount city council and the Rocky Mount city management have poured tens of millions, if not hundreds of millions, into the downtown area and east side of Rocky Mount with no benefit. Has the tens of millions spent on these areas attracted any industry into Rocky Mount or surrounding area, NO!!!

The event center will be built no matter what you, Mr. Yeager, any other citizen or group citizens of Rocky Mount have to say. The event center will be built even though it is not a good business decision to build such a small event center. The event center will be built on the east side, Edgecombe side, of Rocky Mount.

Industry

I agree with the comments in general. More needs to be done to attract manufacturing companies to this area. I wouldn't say Rocky Mount has lost most of its industrial base. For its size Rocky Mount still has a significant amount of manufacturing. Regardless, it is true that over the past 25 or 30 years Rocky Mount has lost many thousands of jobs in manufacturing and other sectors. Have not even mentioned Hardee's Food System's headquarters moving away etc. The jobs lost in manufacturing and other sectors helped to support many more service oriented jobs. The event center is expected to create around 400 jobs and have an annual economic impact of 12 million dollars. Those figures are most likely inflated. But what kind of jobs will be created? Are they going to be temporary or part time jobs. Will they be service jobs in motels or restaurants? A manufacturing plant with 400 or even fewer employees is going to generate a much larger economic impact. So that is why I agree with the comments about attracting more industry and manufacturing to the area instead of an event center.

Well-written letter - and I agree

Yes, indeed, self respect is part of the equation in the human side of employment: "The amazing byproducts of economic health are stabler families, fewer drug problems, less violence, better schools, stronger churches, self-respect and jobs for everyone willing to work." Decent-paying manufacturing jobs may well be the answer to this city's problems. Jobs where people can earn a steady paycheck, have a sense of security and get on with their lives. We don't need to be fixating on an event center to solve those problems. When you add taxes to motel and restaurant bills then eventually increase property taxes, you only have added to the city's problems.

Thank You!

Mr. Yeager, I couldn't agree with you more. The areas that this committee is using to try and justify this center relevance, is not comparable at all. Economically Rocky Mount is not ready, and there is no guarantee that if it is built, that it would receive enough bookings to help the city. I saw people from two sides of this city, some talking about vision and faith, and others talking about the negative economic impact it will have on our residents. Being a person originally from the North, I know this center will be more of a burden on the citizens of this city. Many believe if its built, it will bring jobs and new businesses, but in reality those employed at center will only work when their is an event, and there is no guarantee that within a month the center will even have events each week. Also, businesses will wait a year to see the money the center will generate before they decide whether to locate here, due to fact that many big businesses have left in previous years. In my opinion the local economy is the deciding factor for new businesses, and we do not have it. I for one is totally against this process, instead lets find ways to lower people utilities and to bring jobs that will get many people here back to work, and this center will do neither.

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