Officials optimistic on the state of city, county

Aug. 27, 2014 @ 08:30 AM

City and county officials offered an optimistic view of the economic standing of Thomasville and Davidson County, respectively, at the State of the City and County address Thursday at  Colonial Country Club.

Hosted by the Thomasville Area Chamber of Commerce, the event allowed a host of businesspersons, city and county employees and developers interested in making an investment the opportunity to receive an update on area current events.

Mayor Joe Bennett, James Fitzgerald, CEO of Valley Academy, Doug Croft, president of the Thomasville Area Chamber of Commerce, Grace Kanoy of GeoCore Films and Larry Potts, chairman of the Davidson County Board of Commissioners, made up a panel of speakers at the annual meeting.

Kanoy, one of the guests invited to speak at the gathering who is not an elected official, gave an impassioned speech regarding Thomasville’s lacking digital footprint. Kanoy offered suggestions of how to fix the problem, and she promised to begin talking more about Thomasville online and offline.

“We are failing to mobilize the biggest consumer generation, the millennials,” she said. “The millennials are the first generation to think digital technology is normal; they have never not had it. The Internet is not new, the mobile phone is not new, being online is just what they do. And we're not talking to them. We're not even remotely whispering.”

Despite pausing to address the dire need of improvement in this area, Kanoy also said the good news lies within the city's enormous dormant potential. She unveiled her vision of how to bring more tourists before an applauding crowd.

Mayor Bennett’s message was simple, “Thomasville is coming back.”

The mayor spoke at length regarding expansions at Old Dominion Freight Line and Unilin Flooring. According to Bennett, Old Dominion is reconfiguring the space at its corporate office facility off National Highway to accommodate approximately 400 additional jobs.

“When I'm out on the highway and I see one of their vehicles, I always look on the door on the cab of that truck,” Bennett said. “Because it says 'Thomasville, N.C.' as to where they're located. I say go Old Dominion.”

He further discussed the reopening of Unilin's Denton Road facility in April 2013 and the expansion that added approximately 78,000 square feet to its Cloniger Road facility which bolstered its manufacturing capacity and expanded warehouse space.

Bennett credited Davidson County Community College for their efforts in teaming with Unilin, which is headquartered in Belgium. Unilin opened its first location in Thomasville in 2003, just two weeks after Bennett became mayor. The company frequently hires students from DCCC who have been trained specifically for the positions they fill.

“It's coming back, and it's taking time,” Bennett said. “The plans are in place. The thing about it is working together. Many of you are working together. The community college has become a terrific partner with Unilin. They were on their way out to Belgium as we [city council] were coming back from there. Things are coming back ... it's going to be a different city than it was before.”

Larry Potts, chairman of the Davidson County Board of Commissioners, echoed Bennett's sentiments when he discussed county business. He praised industrial development as one way the county has stemmed the tides of job loss.

The county's tax rate is 54 cents per $100 of valuation, and the figure remained in place with the passage of the 2014-2015 fiscal year budget.

“We've recruited all of these industries in our attempt to fight back from the 10,000-job deficit that surged like a tsunami in the early part of this decade,” Potts said. “You look at our tax base ... and our tax rate. We are the envy of any county our size and almost the envy of every county in North Carolina. We have been able to do this by sound decades of financial management.”

Staff Writer Daniel Kennedy can be reached at 888-3578, or at kennedy@tvilletimes.com.