04/25/14 — Fremont STEP program drawing businesses' attention

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Fremont STEP program drawing businesses' attention

By Matt Caulder
Published in News on April 25, 2014 1:46 PM

FREMONT -- The Fremont Small Town Economic Prosperity team is gaining attention from area businesses for the work it is trying to do to improve Fremont.

At its meeting Tuesday night, new local business owner, Shelia May, owner of A Little of This, A Little of That resale store on Main Street attended the meeting, interested in what the team is doing to improve the aesthetics of its main drag.

The Fremont STEP team is working to spend $100,000 in grant funding through the State to improve the economic health of Fremont.

The team spent the last year planning out how to use the funds but it is still waiting for a contract for the funds from the Department of Commerce.

The grant was offered through the North Carolina Rural Center but it was pulled under the department's umbrella after questions were raised about spending at the center.

The department decided to re-write existing contracts for all of the center's programs, which could take weeks or months.

Until the department finishes the contracts the town's implementation money is untouchable leaving only planning funds to work with.

Mrs. May said that she was hesitant to open her business in Fremont after coming downtown.

"When I got here I thought it was a ghost town, they could shoot a movie here about that" she said. "If I can't make it in six-months I'm kicking it too. It is very hard to start a business. If we don't get a little help from the community it'll be another empty space with mold in it."

Mrs. May has lived in many small towns and said that the way the buildings in Fremont look on Main Street is not inviting.

"They need to paint it or something," she said.

Mrs. May asked the team not to "black ball" her after her comments but Mayor Darron Flowers had different ideas.

"You are echoing a lot of the same comments we have had here before," he said. "We want to have you come back next time and the next and chair one of these committees."

The team discussed operating as the town's chamber of commerce to perform ribbon cuttings and promote businesses in the town.

Last month the team made its first move, voting to appropriate $10,000 of its remaining $15,000 in planning funds to hire the Eastern Carolina Council to develop a business development plan for the town.

Judy Hills, director of the council, gave the team an update on the city's options for what to include in the plan as well as identifying a scope of what the town considers its downtown.

The general consensus was to identify downtown by the one block area of main street that makes up the 100 block.