Stories and photos by Wingate Lassiter unless otherwise noted

Chamber of Commerce salutes good citizens

Honorees at Monday's Chamber of Commerce banquet: (left to right) in front - Kathleen and Tom Hinnant, Selma "Distiniguished Citizens"; second row -
Andy Moore, Smithfield "Distinguished Citizen"; Warren Grimes, "Citizen of the Year"; Jennifer Holloman, Kenly "Distinguished Citizen"; Melissa Overton, "Small Business Person of the Year"; Shanna Capps, outgoing Chamber board member along with Keith Brinson (not present); Eric Brownlee, Chamber's board chair; in back - Johnny Eason, Wilson's Mills "Distinguished Citizen"; Carlyle Woodard, Princeton "Distinguished Citizen"; Kitty Johnson, Chamber Board Member of the Year; Christina Peterson, Chamber Ambassador of the Year; Carlton and Jimmy Pernell, honored as Chamber "Life Members" along with Tom Berkau (not present) upon their retirement from business.

The stories of three Smithfield honorees:

WARREN GRIMES, "Citizen of the Year">

ANDY MOORE, "Distinguished Citizen">

MELISSA OVERTON, "Small Business Person of the Year">

Smithfield-Selma Chamber of Commerce

re-branding itself as "Triangle East"   

The 49th annual banquet of the Smithfield-Selma Chamber of Commerce made history with the formal launching of a new name for the organization, henceforth to be known as the Triangle East Chamber of Commerce.

Under the leadership of Mike Mancuso, finishing up his first year as the Chamber's president, Triangle East will operate as a consortium promoting the economic development interests not only of Smithfield-Selma but also of Kenly, Princeton, and Wilson's Mills.

It was 49 years ago, in 1970, that chambers of commerce at Smithfield and Selma joined forces. That coincided with the opening the previous year of consolidated Smithfield-Selma High School and the realization by local leaders that the two neighboring communities were growing together, literally and figuratively.

Keynote speaker for Monday's Chamber banquet (billed as its "annual meeting") was Ryan Combs, executive director of the Research Triangle Regional Partnership, a marketing consortium for 10 counties around Raleigh-Durham, including Johnston. He touted the region's numerous selling points to prospective employers from around the world.

"Our Southern hospitality" is one of the things that sets us apart, he said. The region's population today surpasses 2-million, it has 10 traditional colleges and universities plus seven community colleges, an airport that hosts 11 commercial carriers, and more than 500 "life science" companies that help make the Triangle region the second fastest-growing "technology hub" in the nation (behind California).

"Talent is, hands down, the most important piece in economic development," Mr. Combs told the Chamber audience as he stressed the importance of boosting education. Toward that end he praised Johnston County citizens for supporting school-bond issues totaling more than $550 million over the past couple of decades and Johnston Community College for its programs supporting the job-training needs of companies that have located here.

Coincidentally, the N.C. Tech Association released a report this past week that listed Johnston as one of 10 counties in the state where "tech occupations" make up more than 6 percent of total employment. (Tech occupations are defined by the report's author as computer and engineering-related jobs.) Of those 10 counties, five are in the Research Triangle region, including Wake, Durham, Nash, and Person in addition to Johnston.
It was somewhat ironic that the location of Monday's Chamber banquet promoting the region's re-branding was The Farm at 95, a venue off I-95 north of Selma that in 2016 was "ground zero" for opposition to a proposed intermodal container "hub" that CSX Railroad wanted to build nearby. That opposition prompted the company to take its plan to a site north of Rocky Mount. At last report, the CSX "Carolina Connector" is scheduled to go into operation in 2020.

View roster of the Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors for 2019>


Johnston County Board of Commissioners
10 a.m. & 6
p.m. Monday, February 4
Johnston County Courthouse, 207 E. Market Street, Smithfield
During its morning session, the board will receive the audit report for the fiscal year that ended last June 30. Commissioners will hear two requests for economic-incentive grants: one for unnamed "distribution facilities," the other for an unnamed "mixed use development" to include three hotels, a retail and commercial complex, residential units, a medical office park, and an industrial and business park. Johnston County Farm Bureau President Dennis Durham will address the board regarding development and agriculture.

During its evening session, the board will hear another request for an economic-incentive grant, this one in conjunction with the Town of Selma, for unnamed "production facilities."
View the agendas for both sessions here.

Smithfield Town Council
7 p.m. Tuesday, February 5
Town Hall, 350 E. Market Street, Smithfield
View the agenda with supporting documents (large PDF - may be slower to load)
This month's agenda includes a couple of rezoning requests: one to switch from the county's Agricultural-Residential zoning district to the town's Residential-Agriculture district 21.26 acres on Black Creek Road southwest of Highway 210; the other to rezone a 3.12-acre tract on the east side of U.S. 70 Business West north of Cloverdale Drive from Highway Entrance Business and Residential-Agricultural zoning to Light Industrial.
The council will get an update on plans to expand the town's water-treatment plant.

How cold did we get from "polar vortex"?   

  The big weather news across the nation this week has been
  record low temperatures caused by the southward-sinking
  "polar vortex." Minnesota recorded a minus-48 degrees while
  Chicago got down to minus 23 (and those readings don't
  factor in the frightening "wind chill").

  Meanwhile, the "vortex" didn't quite make it to our region. The  National Weather Service reading at Johnston Regional Airport northwest of Smithfield this morning (Thursday) was a modest 23 degrees (that's 23 degrees positive, not negative).

Back on January 10, the official recorded low here was 21.9 degrees --- the coldest so far in 2019. Two days before that, on January 8, we experienced a high of 70. And on New Year's Day it reached 77.

There's an "axiom" of sorts from folks around here: "Don't like the weather we're having? Don't worry: it won't last." And that's usually the case one day to the next.

Here's a handy link to The Weather Channel's hourly forecast for Smithfield>

JCC students selected for "Pirate Promise"   

Three Smithfieldians are among 28 students at Johnston Community College selected for East Carolina University's "Pirate Promise" program that offers guaranteed admission to ECU for qualifying students who complete requirements for an associate degree at JCC. The Smithfield students are Rachel Lee, Shannon Parrish,
and Christopher Raynor.

READ MORE about the program here>

Time to sign up for 32nd Johnston Senior Games   

Here's a flyer with the particulars>

For high-school scores and other upcoming Parks and Recreation activities, visit our SPORTS PAGE>

This week's editorial comments:

• Good news on the teacher-recruitment front
• More about new-housing starts in Smithfield



Each week we'll post links to obituaries about persons who have died during the past week. We will 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.

JAMES LASSITER, 74  - died January 29

SANDRA (SANDY) ABRAMS JONES, 66  - died January 26

EILEEN FRANZEL (GERTIE) JOYNER, 97 - died January 26

SANDRA CAMILLE LOWE, 56 - died January 25

JOSEPHINE WOOD PARRISH, 89 - died January 25


Top 10 names for 2018 babies?   

Here's the JOHNSTON COUNTY LIST from Register of Deeds Craig Olive>

a public service announcement

STEM Building, Johnston Community College, Smithfield:

Opening reception hosted by the Johnston County Arts Council.

This exhibit will run through February 24.

Gallery hours are Saturdays 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Sundays 1-5 p.m.


Joe Grimes (far right) was named "Citizen of the Year" at the January 1962 annual banquet of the Smithfield Chamber of Commerce (eight years before it merged with Selma's Chamber). He was the father of Warren Grimes, this week's recipient of that same award. Joe Grimes was a leader in Smithfield's downtown revitalization movement in the early 1960s and went on to serve as mayor of the town in 1965-67. Others in this Smithfield Herald photo from the archives of the Johnston County Heritage Center: (from the left) Ed Woodall, named "Distinguished Citizen";
Nelson Nash, Chamber president; and William T. Piper, president and chairman of Piper Aircraft Corporation who was the banquet's keynote speaker.


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