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Johnston saw growth at rapid clip in 2018

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SMITHFIELD — For Johnston County, 2018 was a year of significant growth and 2019 looks to be bright as well.

“I think we had many ‘highlights’ in 2018, from economic development announcements to the school bond approval and election of new commissioners,” said Ted Godwin, Johnston County Board of Commissioners chairman. “But I think the biggest was the selection and purchase of the site for the new detention center.’”

County Manager Rick Hester said 2018 was a good year for Johnston County in several ways.

“We completed the merger with Alliance Behavioral Health,” said Hester. “In passing the bond referendums for Johnston County Public Schools and Johnston Community College, that is now the sixth consecutive successful set of education bond referendums in the past 20 years.”

Hester said the county received a clean audit for fiscal year 2016-17 and expects the same for this fiscal year.

“The county is in solid financial standing,” said Hester. “The board adopted the recent fiscal year 2018-19 budget with no increase in the property tax rate. That is the 20th year in a row without raising the property tax rate.”

Hester said the property tax revaluation will go into effect in 2019 and that more information would be released soon.

A property tax revaluation is a periodic process that seeks to align property assessments for property tax purposes with current fair market values.

“The board will likely hold their next work session in the spring of 2019 to set goals and priorities, both short-term and long-term,” said Hester. “The county will continue to be aggressive in the area of economic development.”

“In 2019, I think the biggest challenge we face will be properly balanced growth policies,” said Godwin. “It will be a priority on my agenda.”

Johnston County Economic Development Director Chris Johnson cited the $22 million investment from Novo Nordisk in expansion of its Clayton facility and new jobs created as a prime example of Johnston County’s growth.

Another pharmaceutical development, Johnson said, is the Biopharma Crescent, which includes Johnston, Wilson, Nash and Pitt counties.

“Over $3 billion has been invested in this region within the last five years and over 10,000 jobs are in this sector,” said Johnson.

The $1.4 million renovation of the Johnston Community College Workforce Development Center in Clayton makes it a state-of-the-art facility where future employees can get hands-on training and experience, said Johnson.

“We’re always glad to see expansion at the Kenly Petro 95 truck stop where ground was broken earlier this year,” said Johnson. “Also, the fast-tracking of improvements along the U.S. 70 corridor and upgrading it to interstate levels and converting it to I-42 will make Johnston County one of the few, if any counties in the state, with three interstate highway systems located within its boundaries.

“Though the construction delays and headaches associated with it will continue, the upgrades to I-95 from Kenly to Selma are welcomed and will benefit the I-95 corridor of Johnston County and communities to the east.”

Johnson said his office hopes to announce two to three new projects in the first quarter of 2019 and noted that the local and regional economy is still strong.