ONLINE MAY 20, 2021 • VOL. 3, NO.
Stories and photos by Wingate Lassiter
unless otherwise noted
(click highlighted link to e-mail the editor)
Architect's rendering of the Amazon processing center to be built in West Smithfield.
Drone shot of West Smithfield Industrial Park under development. (Photo from Johnston County Economic Development Office)
WHAT BROUGHT AMAZON TO SMITHFIELD?
The process that led to the landing of the large processing center went public in January when the Smithfield Town Council rezoned 258 acres beside US 70 Business West for industrial development as requested by the Samet Corporation.
Chris Johnson, the County of Johnston's director of economic development, told the council during the public hearing on Samet's request that the Greensboro-based company is "very reputable in the industrial sector."
Was Amazon the reason for Samet's interest here? Or did Samet's arrival produce the landing of the online retailing giant?
"I believe it was a little of both," Mr. Johnson told the Sun this week. "I believe there were other companies such as Samet that were aware of Amazon's desire to be in the Triangle Region." He mentioned "the other side of Durham" as a competing spot.
Why West Smithfield?
"Our close proximity to the Triangle and our wonderful transportation links made us attractive," Mr. Johnson said. "The size of the Fleming farm and the due diligence performed by the Economic Development Office, Town of Smithfield, and (Triangle East) Chamber made the location more desirable and met the fast-track needs of the project."
When will the Amazon center be up and running?
"It should be in operation by the fourth quarter of 2022," Mr. Johnson said, "and full employment by the fourth quarter of 2023."
Chris Johnson makes magazine's annual list
of North Carolina's "Most Influential Leaders"
It has turned out to be a memorable month for Johnston County's Economic Development Office and its executive director, Chris Johnson of Smithfield.
Last week came the celebrated announcement of the new Amazon processing center that will provide 500 jobs here.
This month's edition of Business North Carolina magazine includes a supplement entitled "POWER LIST 2021: North Carolina's Most Influential Leaders." Mr. Johnson is one of more than 200 Tar Heel movers and shakers profiled therein.
Mr. Johnson, 55, has been Johnston's economic development director since 2013. Before that he made his mark as executive director of the Downtown Smithfield Development Corporation.
"The East Carolina University graduate has set lofty goals for this year that include finding the county's next big job creator in the life-sciences sector," the magazine notes. It goes on to quote Mr. Johnson's observation that "Johnston County's leadership is composed of business people whose approach to economic development is 'green tape and not red tape.' That pro-business philosophy has led to more than $3 billion in project investment over the past five years."
Two others with local ties are on the magazine's list of "Most Influential Leaders":
Frank Holding Jr. --- son of Smithfield's Ella Ann Holding and the late Frank Holding Sr. who's a third-generation CEO of First Citizens Bancshares, the nation's largest family-owned bank (started here, today headquartered in Raleigh).
Howard Johnson --- former CEO of the Smithfield-Selma Chamber of Commerce who left here in 1986 to become CEO of the Cary Chamber where he continues to work. The magazine notes that Cary's population has grown from 33,000 to 166,000 during Mr. Johnson's tenure there.
"Trusted by families since 1977"
840 S. Bright Leaf Blvd. • 919-934-7164 • www.carrollpharmacy.com
25.1% of Johnstonians fully vaccinated;
Health Department continuing its clinics
Scheduled through the end of this week are the daily vaccination clinics at the Health Department's headquarters at 517 N. Bright Leaf Boulevard beside the hospital and a Saturday clinic at the Brightleaf Flea Market on US 301 South. There's no cost for vaccines given at those clinics, open without appointments to anyone age 12 and older.
VIEW the current list of vaccination clinics offered in Johnston County>
Based on reports compiled by the Sun, here's how many persons received their final COVID-19 shots over the past week to be classified as "fully vaccinated":
• Johnston County --- 2,030
• North Carolina ---- 159,049
• United States --- 7,805,984
The County of Johnston reported 377 active COVID-19 cases as of Tuesday: 357 recovering at home and 20 in hospitals. That's down from 420 cases in last week's report. Of 21,228 cases reported here over the past year, 20,625 Johnstonians are presumed recovered from COVID-19 infections.
Johnston County Public Schools reported 43 active cases among students
(35 a week ago) and 1 among employees (5 last week) as of Wednesday afternoon. The number of active quarantines among students slipped from 394 last week to 343 this week; the number of active quarantines among school employees dropped from 23 to 16.
VIEW the current list of COVID-19 testing sites throughout Johnston County>
COURTS CONTINUE TO REQUIRE MASKS, WITH EXCEPTIONS
In an order issued Monday by Senior Resident Superior Court Judge Tom Lock and Chief District Court Judge Paul Holcombe, "all persons, including attorneys, law enforcement officers, court staff, litigants, and members of the public, shall at all times wear medical style face masks or similar face coverings... in the superior and district courtrooms of Johnston County."
An exception permits judges to allow trial participants "inside the bar of the courtroom to remove their face masks while speaking or actively engaged in a trial or hearing." Also, bailiffs and other security officers may require a person to remove a mask "if, in their discretion, the mask poses a security concern or impedes a necessary identification of the person."
The order says the mask requirement remains in place since "there have been several cases of COVID-19 among officers and staff" at the Courthouse within the past two weeks, and "the threat of COVID-19 remains an issue of concern to those working in the Courthouse."
COUNTY OFFERING COVID-RELATED AID TO HOUSEHOLDS
Using federal CARES Act money, the County of Johnston is offering households in financial distress because of the coronavirus pandemic up to $2,000 to meet payments for mortgages, rent, and utilities including electricity, water, and fuel.
The county's Department of Social Services began taking applications for the aid this week. Households must meet federal "Low/Moderate" annual income levels that range from $33,500 for one person up to $63,200 for families of eight. In addition, available cash resources, including bank accounts, may not exceed $2,500.
The department is taking applications by phone at 919-989-5320.
County OKs $1.3 million to get natural gas
closer to potential Four Oaks industry sites
The Johnston County Board of Commissioners voted 6-1 at Monday's meeting to put up $1.3 million to guarantee extension of natural-gas service from the southern side of Smithfield to Four Oaks Middle School, putting that service closer to Four Oaks Business Park on the other side of I-95.
Chris Johnson, the county's director of economic development, said natural-gas service is essential for the Four Oaks park to recruit higher-paying manufacturing jobs that are presently going to competing counties.
Commissioner Butch Lawter cast the lone vote against the county's commitment. "I don't know the details" of the gas-line project, he said, "nor does the public."
What commissioners were told is that Piedmont Natural Gas is willing to "upsize" the extension to Four Oaks to accommodate future industrial projects, presumably with the promise of financial aid from the county.
"I don't care what it costs," declared Commissioners' Chairman Chad Stewart. When it comes to economic development, he said, "the I-95 corridor needs a jump start."
Mr. Johnson told the Sun following Monday's meeting that Piedmont's gas service presently extends no farther south than the area near Carolina Packers. He said that's "six or seven miles away" from the Four Oaks park that currently has just one occupant: a distribution center for medical supplier Becton Dickinson.
During his presentation to commissioners, Mr. Johnson said extension of natural-gas service to Four Oaks Middle School would result in energy savings for the county's school system.
READ MORE from Monday evening's meeting of the County Commissioners>
Johnston's hospitals receive national
award for "Patient Safety Excellence"
Story from Johnston Health
has been recognized as a Healthgrades 2021 Patient
Safety Excellence Award recipient. This distinction
places Johnston Health among
the top 5% of all short-term acute-care hospitals
reporting patient safety data as evaluated by Healthgrades, the leading
marketplace connecting patients and providers.
JOHNSTON HEALTH NAMES "AMBASSADOR OF THE YEAR"
Joe Bowman (center), a chest-pain coordinator with Johnston Health, has been named the local hospital system's "Ambassador of the Year for his outstanding performance, dedication to co-workers and patients, and exemplary service to the organization." At a surprise ceremony this week, Johnston Health's CEO Tom Williams (right) presented a trophy and Smithfield's Mayor Pro Tem John Dunn (left) a proclamation declaring May 12 as "Joe Bowman Day." Besides his duties as chest-pain coordinator, Mr. Bowman is Johnston Health's stroke coordinator and liaison to Johnston County EMS. He also teaches hands-only CPR at school and community events. (Photo from Johnston Health)
WHAT'S COMING UP?
AVA GARDNER MUSEUM RE-OPENING SATURDAY
After months of extensive remodeling due to water damage, the Ava Gardner Museum in Downtown Smithfield will re-open to the public with regular hours this Saturday. "The grand re-opening will unveil not only a practically new museum but will include the debut of the costume exhibit as well as many rarely seen items now on display," reads the announcement. Starting Saturday, the museum's regular hours will be 9:30-4:30 Monday-Friday, 9-5 Saturday, 2-5 Sunday. Admission prices are $12 for adults; $10 for seniors (65+), military personnel, teenagers (13-17), and groups of 10 or more; and $8 for children (6-12).
DOWNTOWN DINING IN THE STREET THIS FRIDAY
Nate Brown and his Rhythms of Soul (played on steel drums) will be the featured entertainer during this Friday's Third StrEATery event Downtown. From 6 to 9 p.m. folks are invited free of charge to visit the 100 block of South Third Street that will be closed to vehicular traffic. Tables will be set up for eating take-out meals from nearby restaurants. The event will be staged every other Friday through July.
SMITHFIELD-SELMA HIGH'S GRADUATION MAY 28
SSS will hold a traditional graduation ceremony for the Class of 2021 at 7 p.m. Friday, May 28 at Charles Tucker Stadium, weather permitting. Last year's ceremony was conducted as a drive-thru event because of the coronavirus pandemic.
DEATHS & FUNERALS
Each week we post links to obituaries about persons who have died during the past week. We monitor the websites of local funeral homes to compile our list, and we welcome links provided by readers to obituaries of persons with Smithfield connections who have died outside our immediate area....
LUCILLE LEE CROCKER, 87 - died May 18
ANNIE VICTORIA MANNING, 95 - died May 17
TINA GODFREY RENFROW, 79 - died May 17
DELOIS ELIZABETH ALFORD SPELLMAN, 71 - died May 16
OFFIE LYNN (LINK) DUBLIN, 88 - died May 15
VIOLET BOYETTE STARLING, 61 - died May 13
RUDY FRANKLIN CREECH, 70 - died May 12
EDWARD FRANK (SHOT) JONES, 87 - died May 12
BENJAMIN JAMES PEEDIN, 34 - died May 12
JOHNNY FREDERICK TOOLE, 73 - died May 12
THAT'S THE WAY IT WAS