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PUBLISHED ONLINE JUNE 27, 2024   •   VOL. 6, NO. 26
The Sun is going monthly for the summer again: Next edition July 18

Content produced by WINGATE LASSITER unless credited otherwise
(Click on highlighted link above to e-mail the editor)

31st year for South Smithfield's Fourth of July parade

Its ingredients remain the same as this photo from last year attests: youngsters on decorated bikes followed by parents pulling toddlers in strollers and wagons alongside anyone else who wants to make the walk around an extended block that begins and ends on Crescent Drive just south of Hood Street. Parade time is 10 a.m. next Thursday (July 4) – with a promise of free cookies and lemonade afterwards.
 



County OKs incentives for Novo Nordisk expansion

1,000 additional jobs coming to sprawling Clayton campus

Corporate Vice President Neils Nielsen (right) announced specifics of the project following Monday morning's approval by Johnston's County Commissioners of tax rebates tied to the company's new investment and hiring goals.

Mr. Nielsen said the Denmark-based company plans to spend $4.1 billion on a 1.4-million-square-foot manufacturing facility that will add 1,000 jobs to the 1,000 or so already employed at its sprawling Clayton campus on Powhatan Road.

Chris Johnson, the county's economic development director, told commissioners the newly announced project is "the single largest life-science manufacturing investment in the state of North Carolina, and quite possibly the largest investment in the U.S. by our friends at Novo Nordisk."

The board then authorized a revised agreement with Novo Nordisk based on the county's standard procedure for industrial recruitment incentives. Primarily, that's a rebate of a percentage of county property taxes assessed over 12 years provided the company meets capital-investment goals and adds at least 500 employees at an average wage no less than $69,065.

The tax rebates start at 90% for five years on "net new taxable value of improvements," then decline gradually to 50%. Rebates on "business property" (mostly equipment) remain at 50% for the entire 12 years. After that, Novo Nordisk is responsible for paying all property taxes in full without annual rebates.

Monday's agreement revises a contract for incentive grants approved in 2022 for a previously announced expansion project. Novo Nordisk has been in operation at its Clayton location since the mid-1990s. Its initial focus was production of insulin.

According to local media reports, including a story posted by WRAL News, the company's massive expansion at Clayton is being spurred by surging demand for Ozempic and Wegovy, diabetes and weight-loss drugs produced by Novo Nordisk.

The new production facilities, already under construction, will cover space as large as 25 football fields (170 acres), with 2,000 or so contractors expected to be employed during the peak of construction, the company noted. Completion is anticipated in phases between 2027 and 2029.

Here's the architect's rendering of the cluster of new facilities being built:


(Photos from from Johnston County Office of Economic Development)



U.S. reports Johnston's weekly wage up to $1,054

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has released a report showing the average weekly wage among Johnstonians reached $1,054 at the end of 2023 – an increase of 5.7% since the end of 2022. Based on that report, the average Johnston County annual wage adds up to $54,808.

For all of North Carolina, the average weekly wage at the end of last year was $1,280 – $66,560 for 52 weeks.

The federal report is based on data provided by "covered" employers. For Johnston County, that includes 5,112 establishments with 60,369 employees. (The most recent labor report from the N.C. Department of Commerce showed 108,761 Johnstonians at work under the state's unemployment-insurance program.)

Among neighboring counties, Wake had the highest weekly wage at $1,473 among 51,752 establishments employing 653,642. The only other nearby county with a weekly wage above Johnston's is Wilson at $1,069. The lowest rate among our neighbors was Harnett County's $894.

VIEW the report's county-by-county North Carolina map with statistics>

 



Retail sales up 10.9% in year's first quarterly report

Retail sales in Johnston County showed a healthy gain of 10.9% during January, February, and March of this year when compared to sales during the same quarter a year earlier. According to the latest report from the N.C. Department of Commerce, 2024 first-quarter sales in Johnston totaled $805,162,604 – up $79.1 million from the previous year's quarterly total of $726,014,693.
 



HOT FUN IN THE SUMMERTIME

Despite last weekend's "heat wave" when official high temperatures reached 95, a couple of outdoor events in Smithfield took place as planned....


The Chairmen of the Board performed with help from the audience at Friday's River Jam concert at the Neuse River Amphitheater. The series of free performances, hosted by the town's Parks & Recreation Department, wraps up with a performance by Spare Change, a "fun time party band," at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, July 13.


Last Saturday, a celebration of Juneteenth hosted by several organizations began with a morning parade from the Johnston Central Alumni Center to Smith-Collins Park where an afternoon cookout followed.

Apparently, those who took part in both events were able to "beat the heat."


IT'S HOT – AND IT'S DRY: an unpleasant convergence

Wednesday's official high temperature here – measured at Johnston Regional Airport – climbed to 96.8 degrees at 2:10 p.m. and reached 98.6 at 4:50 where it stayed for an hour. Heat index was recorded as high as 103 at one point and remained at 102 for much of the afternoon.

Meanwhile, it hasn't rained in South Smithfield since June 10, when Cornell Cox recorded one-tenth of an inch at his backyard weather station. He reports a total of just 0.45 inches since the first of June.

As a result, the County of Johnston earlier this week began urging its water customers to cut back on irrigation that's putting a strain on its treatment plant on the Neuse River at Wilson's Mills. The county's suggestion for alternate watering days:
• Odd-numbered addresses: Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday.
• Even-numbered addresses: Wednesday, Friday, Sunday.
• No watering on Monday.

The Town of Smithfield has its own water plant on the Neuse and so far hasn't put out an advisory about conservation.

There's a chance of thundershowers in the region over the weekend. We're keeping our fingers crossed some relief from the heat and drought will reach us soon.

 



WHAT'S COMING UP

Smithfield's Fourth of July celebration this Sunday

The evening's activities begin at noon with a "Red White & Brews" event along the 100 block of Downtown's South Third Street featuring food trucks, local vendors, and craft breweries until 6 p.m. After that, the town's Independence Celebration moves to the Neuse River Amphitheater on Front Street for live music, food trucks, games and activities, and a fireworks show at approximately 9:15 p.m. These events are free of admission charge, compliments of the Downtown Smithfield Development Corporation.

Governing board meetings scheduled through mid-July

Since the next edition of the Weekly Sun won't arrive till July 18 – three weeks from today – here's the schedule of local government meetings between now and then:

Smithfield Town Council will meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday, July 9 at Town Hall rather than July 2 because of the Fourth of July holiday. As a result, the council's second monthly meeting will be delayed till Tuesday, July 23.
VIEW agendas once they're posted by the end of the week prior to the meetings>

Johnston County Commissioners will meet at 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. Monday, July 15 at the Courthouse. The regular first-Monday sessions won't be held on July 2 in deference to the Fourth of July holiday.
VIEW agendas once they're posted by the end of the week prior to the meetings>

Johnston County Board of Education normally skips its second-Tuesday-of-the-month meeting in July.



Posters spotlight upcoming summertime activities:



DEATHS & FUNERALS

Click on the name to read an obituary, usually posted by the funeral home.

MABELEAN JERNIGAN RAMSEY, 84 – died June 26

RUBEN CASTILLO CORONA, 48 – died June 25

ADDIE AUSTIN WALLACE, 104 – died June 25

HORACE GENE EVANS, 72 – died June 23

ANNIE M. McDANIEL, 82 – died June 23

GRACE SANDERS, 81 – died June 23

 


A WORD (OR TWO) FROM THE EDITOR

Weekly Sun to be a Monthly Sun in July & August

This is the second summer I'm going to take some time off to have more free time to spend with family and friends, and also to rethink the future direction of this publication. Perhaps things will be different. Perhaps not.

The July edition is scheduled to go out on Thursday the 18th, the August edition on Thursday the 15th. The weekly schedule resumes after Labor Day.

In the meantime, I'm always "open for business" when it comes to your ideas and suggestions about where the Smithfield Weekly Sun ought to be headed.



...so anyone can dump just about anything at no charge

The County Commissioners had considered attaching an annual fee to property-tax bills to help pay for the county's garbage-collection service at rural "convenience centers." That would have replaced the expiring $100 annual fee for vehicle decals permitting dumping of household garbage and trash (there has been no charge for disposal of recyclable items).

But budget season came and went without anything more said about that proposal, which means the cost of the program is being absorbed as part of the county's General Fund operating budget – even after a two-cent cut in the tax rate!

Will this open-to-all free admission to the county's trash-collection stations put an end, at last, to illegal roadside dumping?

 



A WORD FROM A READER

Disappointment with county response on energy grants

By DEBORAH HOOKER, co-leader
N.C. Central & Cape Fear Region Chapter, Citizens Climate Lobby


I just wanted to clarify a detail in your report on the County Commissioners' June 17 meeting (in last week's edition): "Representations from a citizens' lobby called Down Home N.C. appeared... to request employment of an 'energy manager' who could seek grants... to help low-income households pay their utility bills. Their request wasn't included in the new year's budget."

The representatives were from two groups:  Down Home N.C. and the N.C. Central & Cape Fear Region Chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby.

The request was for the county to apply for any and all Inflation Reduction Act monies that could be used to fund the position of a Sustainability Director/Energy Navigator. (Greenville has just done this.)

The purpose of that hire is not merely to help households pay their utility bills. It is to provide the county with an individual who could examine and determine which funds from the Inflation Reduction Act or the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act could be applied for to be used:
• To educate our citizens and businesses about the tax incentives and rebates for electrification and energy efficiency upgrades available to individual homeowners and businesses.
• To  consider applications for grants that could help pay for electrifying both commercial and municipal buildings, for building an EV infrastructure (which would be a revenue boon for those small communities near I-95), for including heretofore excluded communities in conversations about how to make our county more resilient in the face of climate change; for weatherization projects for low-income residents, and more.

The fact is, such a position could save the county money.


Johnston County has many census tracts that have been identified as being "under-served," which would also make us incredibly competitive for these funds.

It is a disappointment that the county shows no interest in examining or applying for these funds. One would hope that the early heat wave we’re experiencing would create a sense of urgency where the climate crisis is concerned, especially when federal funds are available that could make us, and certainly those who are most vulnerable, more resilient in the face of that crisis.
 



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