The year 2020 saw the world of businesses and commerce have to adjust or deal with the coronavirus pandemic by either having to shut down, downsize, limit employees’ working hours or switch to dealing with clients or customers via drive-up or internet-powered service.
But the situation was hardly all doom and gloom in the Rocky Mount area.
That was because agencies or businesses opened here and there or relocated to new space, while construction at or upgrading of locations occurred or were confirmed for the future.
The Telegram in November published a story providing an inside look at the since-relocated state Division of Motor Vehicles headquarters along North Church Street just off U.S. 64, in what long ago had been the corporate headquarters of the Hardee’s fast food chain.
The DMV headquarters was shifted from along New Bern Avenue in the capital city to Rocky Mount. That is because the General Assembly required a process for relocating the present headquarters due to health and safety issues beyond the state’s control.
Gov. Roy Cooper, as North Carolina’s top official, in December 2019 signed a 15-year lease with the landlord for the Rocky Mount location, sealing the deal on what had been the most competitive of 10 site proposals.
Additionally, the Rocky Mount area received a shot in the arm in December when the state awarded $980,000 in grants from a nearly $13 million pot so business and industry locations can be prepared or expanded and create numerous jobs.
Specifically, $790,000 in grants are for buildings to be renovated for re-usage and a $190,000 grant is for a business already in the area with plans to expand a building.
The largest grant that will be used locally is $500,000 to support the re-usage of the former Blue Hawaiian Pools building off Fountain Park Drive just on the Edgecombe County side of the rail line dividing Nash County and Edgecombe County.
Wolf and Flow X-Ray is a medical imaging manufacturer and the company plans to relocate from Deer Park, N.Y., to the former Blue Hawaiian building.
A $200,000 grant will support the re-usage of the former Ceco Building Systems building off Red Iron Road northeast of N.C. Wesleyan College.
Cornerstone Building Brands manufactures exterior building products for commercial and residential use and the company, which is based in Cary, plans to have an operation in the former Ceco building.
A $90,000 grant will support the re-usage of the former Cooper-Standard building off Dozier Road by the Jay Group.
The Jay Group is in the wholesale shoe business and the company, which is based in Rocky Mount, plans to expand into the former Cooper-Standard location, which is northwest of the Sunset Avenue bridge over Interstate 95.
The $190,000 grant will support the expansion of a building being used by LS Tractor USA in the Whitaker Business and Industry Center just south of Gold Rock.
In other news in 2020, the area’s business and industrial recruiter, the Carolinas Gateway Partnership, began operating in a renovated location in the heart of Rocky Mount.
The Telegram in August published a story about Carolinas Gateway being in a combination state-of-the-art and elegant space on the second floor of a building abutting the south to southeast side of the Station Square business and professional complex.
Also downtown, the Telegram in November published a story showing developer Troy Davis has been working since February to transform three side-by-side buildings along Southeast Main Street into the future Davis Lofts.
Davis said the project will be complete by February 2021, with the plan being to have 22 high-quality upstairs apartments, four ground-level storefronts for businesses and a rooftop deck.
Davis is not stopping there, either, because in December he announced that he had acquired the site of the former Carleton House motor lodge and restaurant along North Church Street and said he plans to revitalize the location.
Davis said the location will have some housing, along with a restaurant, conference spaces, a new pool, an arcade and a place for miniature golf.
Northwest of downtown, Infranet Technologies Group, which locally had a location off Sunset Avenue in the northwestern part of the city, in January shifted to renovated space at the Rocky Mount Mills mixed-use development off Falls Road along the Tar River.
Infranet serves businesses by providing management and protection for and troubleshooting of their computer systems.
Further beyond downtown and the Mills area, one could see development going on.
The Telegram in August reported the new Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott as the latest addition to the set of hotels in the northwestern part of the city.
The Fairfield is adjacent to the busy U.S. 64 interchange with Winstead Avenue.
In July, Rocky Mount Ample Storage opened for business along Sunset Avenue in the northwestern part of the city.
The location offers climate-controlled storage and drive-up storage and also offers a truck with a 14-foot enclosed bed for free for customers needing to move items from a location into a storage space for the first time.
Also in the northwestern part of the city, what had long been the Ruby Tuesday along Benvenue Road in October became the Rocky Mount Dodge City Steakhouse.
Dodge City Steakhouse’s home office is in Asheboro and the locations play on “Gunsmoke,” which was a popular CBS television show that ran from 1955-1975 and starred James Arness as the fictional U.S. Marshal Matt Dillon in a late-1800s Dodge City, Kan.
Also in October, the Telegram reported that the former Rite Aid Pharmacy building, also along Benvenue, was going to be replaced by a relocated CVS Pharmacy.
The Rhode Island-based chain has bid farewell to the CVS location next to the Food Lion supermarket in Beaver Pond Centre just up Goldrock Road for a significantly larger and renovated location along Benvenue.
Also in the northwestern part of the city and prior to the spread of COVID-19, three new businesses began serving customers at the busy South Wesleyan Boulevard interchange with Sunset Avenue, joining Panera Bread, which opened in November 2019.
In January and close to the Panera, Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen opened. The next month and also close to the Panera, Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers opened.
The set of new business and commerce in the immediate area received an addition in July with the opening of a new freestanding Banfield Pet Hospital. Previously, Banfield had been operating locally within the PetSmart store off of Jeffreys Road.
Rounding out development in the northwestern part of the city was the completion in October of First Carolina Bank’s new freestanding corporate administration building next to the main banking building along North Winstead Avenue.