Recent newspaper comments by Councilman Reuben Blackwell and Lige Daughtridge regarding a proposed convention center caught my eye.
Prior to moving here in 1974, I heard negative comments about Rocky Mount not being more successful due to the inner-bickering in a divided city. I’ve been doing a little more traveling around lately, and one thing caught my eye: The number of cities having signs touting a “convention center.”
Whether it is to be located downtown in Rocky Mount or near the Interstate 95-U.S. 64 area, Rocky Mount is overdue for a convention type facility.
The sports complex has performed well by bringing business to Rocky Mount and providing a place for local sports to take place. N.C. Wesleyan College brings arts to the area, which is good, but the ticket prices sometimes leave out a few people. Cost for a new convention center? My understanding is that at least one major corporation is willing to help with part of the initial costs and would like to see a convention center in this area for the local population, its employees and for the good of this area. Rocky Mount officials and local business leaders should be working together to find ways to make this work.
If more business/corporate leaders want the center located away from downtown, let them propose some alternatives and come up with more business/corporate grants to help make it happen where they want it; otherwise, use their resources to make it happen in downtown Rocky Mount – some progress is better than no progress. A recent news report cited the Census Bureau as stating that 47 of North Carolina’s counties have lost population numbers: Nash and Edgecombe were two of those losing population.
Maybe the convention center will be one factor to make Rocky Mount more attractive in drawing new people to our city. If the downtown proposal will be too much of a drain on city resources, then let our city leaders cooperate in finding a way to make it work somewhere near I-95 and obtain more business/corporate sponsorships.
The Rocky Mount Convention Center should not be on a wish list or dream any longer. Let’s put partisan politics out of the way and get this accomplished. I believe if both sides will give in a little, this can and should be a reality in the near future.
Since business interests will carry part of the burden for costs, our city council should listen to what they have to say and consider a site other than downtown if that will help get it built. I hope to see it built in my lifetime.