— Susan London • January 2017
In September 2016, recognizing the need to adequately prepare for rapid population growth, the Town of Rolesville took the first steps toward professional economic development efforts by signing a nine-month, $58,500 contract with Jennifer Mizelle of The Town Builders Consulting Group, LLC.
Mizelle’s responsibilities include establishing the framework for an economic development program and acting as the Town’s economic developer until the position is transitioned to a full-time employee in the spring of 2017.
“I’ve been asking for it for several years,” said Mayor Frank Eagles, who, along with Town Manager Bryan Hicks, had previously been trying to handle the job along with their other day-to-day duties. “We felt we needed to have someone with expertise and experience to recruit stores and businesses that people were asking for.”
With the opening of the bypass in July 2015, having an economic development person is particularly timely, he added.
Over the past several years, Rolesville has found itself in the spotlight. The Town has seen a 550% increase in residential growth from 2000, when there were 989 residents, to 2016, when that number had grown to approximately 6,500. Along with this huge increase comes the need for retail and other commercial business to provide services and tax revenue to the growing population.
Mizelle, who spent 20 years with the Town of Holly Springs, first as Community Development Director from 1996 to 1998 and then as Economic Development Director from 1998 until her retirement in 2016, crossed paths with Mayor Eagles and Bryan Hicks during the Rolesville leaders’ exploration of economic development with other Wake County professionals. Her expertise was a good fit.
“The Rolesville situation couldn’t have been at a better time for me and, I think, for them,” Mizelle said. “It’s really fun to be here. There’s so much opportunity.”
She sees many similarities between Rolesville and Holly Springs in regard to population and the ratio of commercial to residential tax revenues.
In 1998, Holly Springs also had about 6,500 residents and tax base components that were about 90% residential and 10% commercial. Currently, Rolesville has a similar population with a residential tax base component of about 87% and commercial tax base component of 13%. Ideally, that ratio should be closer to 70% residential and 30% commercial, Mizelle said.
The first several months of the contract have been spent working in a discovery phase as Mizelle has familiarized herself with Rolesville’s business climate, traffic counts and mass transportation offerings. She has been meeting business owners and leaders in the community and determining what the Town has to offer in regard to land and commercial space.
Over the coming months, she will be expanding the marketing materials currently in place and overseeing the design of the economic development website.
Linked to the Town website, the new economic development site will provide relevant demographic data and will tie in with Xceligent, a real estate database that offers a comprehensive listing of all land and commercial space currently available in the town.
Mizelle said she believes there are retailers taking a look at the town based on the demographics, growth and recent accolades.
As the end of Mizelle’s contract approaches in May 2017, she will initiate a transition plan to a permanent economic development professional and identify an additional scope of services that will be required of the position.
Mayor Eagles said he would like to initially focus on attracting restaurants and small businesses. And, Mizelle said, “ideally we would like to see some more retail and commercial businesses that are in the planning stages to locate here. … Certainly we would like to see more non-residential development.”
When that starts to happen, Mizelle said, Town leaders know they need to be ready.