Incoming Greenville economic development hire eager to get started; residents excited for change

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – 9 On Your Side is continuing to follow economic development in Greenville.

The city has been without an economic development manager since April.

The city has seen plenty of growth despite the vacancy. Many new shops and businesses are coming to the area and a new person will help that growth.

Roger Johnson is the city’s new economic development manager. He’ll leave his current job assisting with development in Wilmington to lead Greenville’s economic department.

Johnson says he knows the areas he wants to focus on, like increasing jobs and helping small businesses.

Business owners and residents all have a list of things they would like to see change, including the development of 14 acres of open space at the Greenville Town Common, but they all say hiring Johnson is a positive thing for the city.

“I think it’s a step in the right direction that they are thinking of the future of the area,” said Elisa Barton, lives in Greenville.

“I think that it’s a good idea, and it will work, it can work, and we can make it work,” said Bessie Smith, lives in Greenville.

“I think it’s incredibly exciting and the timing is great,” said Michael Glenn, business owner. “There’s so much happening downtown and Greenville in general.”

Johnson is coming to Greenville after five years of helping Wilmington with its development.

Glenn, owner of the uptown business Jefferson’s, is thrilled to have someone from Wilmington join Greenville’s efforts.

“I think we need to be open minded about riverfront development and, coincidentally, bringing in the economic development director from Wilmington, there’s a great example of what can be done with waterfront towns,” said Glenn, who added that Greenville’s Town Common is the perfect place to start. Look at the proximity of, you know, downtown as it is now to the water and you’ve got this, you know, kind of empty space between First Street and the river. Uh, I think the possibilities are, there’s so much that could happen.”

Johnson says he’s thought about developing the riverfront area. He says there are three things he wants to focus once he starts.

The first, job growth, second, growing the tax base through development opportunities, and third, he wants to make it easier for small businesses to be successful.

“If we can accomplish those three things, I think Greenville will certainly thrive and the economic vitality will be much better,” explained Roger Johnson, Greenville economic development hire.

Johnson says there’s a lot of opportunity for mixed used space, housing, and development opportunities along the river, but it’s all up to the public. He says he won’t make any moves until you voice your opinion.

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