Town board envisions the future

By Bill Colvard -
Darren Rhodes, NC Department of Commerce, (left), leads a planning retreat with Pilot Mountain town board and staff. - Bill Colvard | The News

At Pilot Mountain’s annual planning retreat at the Pilot Center on Thursday, town commissioners, the mayor and town staff met with facilitators from the Department of Commerce to identify goals for the town and a path toward them.

Darren Rhodes and Jeff Emory from NC Department of Commerce put the town board through several hours of brainstorming, starting with a ‘visioning session.’

Rhodes started the board off with a bit of advice.

“A vision without a plan is a dream. A plan without a vision is drudgery. But a vision with a plan can transform a town.”

Asking the board to envision what they wanted Pilot Mountain to look like in 20 years, Rhodes got down to helping the board perform that transformation.

The first round of ideas brought a vision of “economic prosperity” from Commissioner Kim Quinn.

Commissioner Linda Needham spoke of “retail spaces filled with businesses that bring people to town, businesses people want.”

“New parks and public spaces,” said Commissioner Evan Cockerham.

Mayor Dwight Atkins wanted “an awareness of connection with the park (Pilot Mountain State Park) and an identity as “kind of a mountain town.”

Commissioner Gary Bell said, “what I see and what I want to see is completely different. I see a ghost town. We’re a small town, less than two square miles.”

Bell said the town’s identity as a “home town” was important, saying, “using the mountain in our backyard, I’d like the town to become alive again, with entrepreneurial activity downtown, and commercial activity that brings in visitors and supports residents.”

Subsequent rounds of ideas finally resulted in enough material for Bell to craft a vision statement.

“The Piedmont’s mountain town that offers unique experiences for outdoor, entertainment, shopping, the arts — and a hometown feel. A town that is business-friendly with a downtown that has something for everyone, residents and visitors alike. A true destination to be experienced.”

Rhodes then attempted to guide the board to adopt some goals that would help realize the vision they had just created.

The four goals were:

1.) Be proactive in recruiting/supporting businesses.

2.) Visitor-friendly — infrastructure (sidewalks, water/sewer) improvements and maintenance.

3.) Town and mountain associated with each other.

4.) Town policy that promotes a small/hometown feel.

The next step was to develop one to two objectives for achieving each goal.

As far as Goal 1, recruiting and supporting businesses, two objectives were identified; an incentive policy focusing on jobs, capital investment and desired business types that is rebate-based, and the continued promotion of downtown events and businesses.

Goal 2, becoming visitor-friendly, resulted in an objective of working with Surry County tourism and development partnerships to make sure visitors are directed to Pilot Mountain.

Discussion of Goal 3, associating the town with the mountain, centered on finding a way for the town to capitalize on the almost-one-million visitors a year to Pilot Mountain State Park.

“At some point, we will have to investigate a physical link between the town and the mountain,” said Mayor Atkins.

A greenway connection was discussed. The beginnings of a route already exist.

Objectives for Goal 4, town policy that promotes a small/home town feel include starting to implement the streetscape plan that is already in work and continue improvements to sidewalks.

As the retreat neared its end, a bump in the road was hit regarding “hometown feel.”

“Hometown feel — I don’t know what that is,” said Town Manager Michael Boaz.

“It feels small because it is small,” said Mayor Atkins.

Rhodes wound things up, saying, “All of this stuff is going to take a collective effort,” and promised to return with a cleaned-up plan based on the input given to him by the board.

Darren Rhodes, NC Department of Commerce, (left), leads a planning retreat with Pilot Mountain town board and staff. Rhodes, NC Department of Commerce, (left), leads a planning retreat with Pilot Mountain town board and staff. Bill Colvard | The News

By Bill Colvard

Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699.

Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699.