06/01/14 — Fremont ready to start work on STEP plans

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Fremont ready to start work on STEP plans

By Matt Caulder
Published in News on June 1, 2014 1:50 AM

FREMONT -- After a nearly six-month wait, the Fremont Small Town Economic Prosperity team can now move forward with a list of projects meant to improve the town.

The mayor signed contracts between the town and the state Department of Commerce this past week, laying out the agreement for the department to reimburse the town for $100,000 in projects through the STEP program.

"Now it's more a reality instead of it being a dream," STEP team chairman Keith Spivey said. "Now it's tangible. Now we have something we can sink our teeth into."

Spivey said the team's first move will be to continue work on the planned shopper survey as well as analyzing areas of retail leakage in Fremont to identify possible businesses to recruit to the town.

The city currently has no legal or real estate services, fitness centers, decorators or auto parts stores.

Interim Town Administrator Barbara Aycock said the contract came about two weeks ago.

"It's all as expected," she said. "No surprises, it's the same as it was except the time frame."

The team will have until Oct. 31, 2015, to complete all of the projects laid out in the plan.

The town had expected the contracts to come in January, but the Department of Commerce decided to rewrite the contracts associated with that and other North Carolina Rural Center programs after taking control of the center late last year.

Control of the center was rolled under the department after questions were raised about the center's use of funds.

So far the team has appropriated $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. The shopper survey is the plan's first step.

Once the survey is complete, the team will move on to the remainder of the projects including constructing welcome signs, improving the town's web page as well as developing promotional material to increase the town's population.

The three areas the town's projects focus on are to attract and to retain businesses, as well as families and retirees.

The third area of focus is to implement marketing strategies for the first two areas of focus.

The STEP team is made up of Fremont residents interested in making a positive change in Fremont to grow the town, Spivey said.

The team has been working for nearly two years to prepare the way for the projects to begin.

Now the team will be able to vote to encumber funds for the next projects, which the town board will have to approve.

The town will then seek reimbursement from the department.