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Rocky Mount area set to welcome DMV staff

BY WILLIAM F. WEST, The Rocky Mount TelegramJune 17, 2019

ROCKY MOUNT, N.C. (AP) — The Rocky Mount Area Chamber of Commerce and the Carolinas Gateway Partnership are going to roll out the red carpet for state Division of Motor Vehicles employees in response to the planned relocation of the agency’s headquarters to the city.

“We felt like once we got it secure, our work really began because we want our new partner in DMV and their staff to feel right at home,” Chamber President and CEO David Farris said.

Farris said the specifics remain a work in progress, but he said the city’s chief civic organization and the local chief business and industry recruiter are going to help DMV staff transition by getting them more comfortable with Rocky Mount.

This is going to include publishing information about available services, conducting tours and holding gatherings for the DMV workers.

The Council of State in March voted 10-0 in favor of the state Department of Transportation’s proposal to shift the DMV headquarters from North Carolina’s capital city. The Council of State is comprised of the top state officers, including Gov. Roy Cooper, and has the power to make decisions about state purchases of properties.

The plan calls for the DMV headquarters to be relocated from Raleigh to the former Hardee’s Food Systems building off North Church Street and just north of U.S. 64.

Farris has been pointing out Rocky Mount’s experience with the aftermath of then-RBC Centura Bank in 2005 announcing intentions to relocate principal offices from Rocky Mount to Raleigh and many bank workers having to commute as a result.

“We understand the anxiety any time an organization relocates,” he said. “Change is always a little bit unsettling until you get used to it.”

As for the DMV employees, he said, “We’re going to bring some of ’em in, if they want to, during the summer, and tour Rocky Mount, have lunch on us, go through the (former Hardee’s) building and see where their new home will be — and get a little bit more familiar with Rocky Mount.

“When the door opens shortly thereafter, we’re going to have some celebrations and dinner out there for the entire staff.”

Carolinas Gateway Partnership President and CEO Norris Tolson, a former state transportation secretary, said DMV staff reached out to him and asked what could be done in Rocky Mount to help employees answer questions about where to find services.

“We put together a really neat, ‘Here’s what the region looks like in terms of services,’ he said. “So you can flip to a page on restaurants and see a good representation of all the restaurants that are around.”

Tolson said such information had been put together in the past, but in bits and pieces.

“This is the first time we’ve actually put it together like a ‘Welcome to Rocky Mount’ package, but you can get it all under one cover,” he said.

There was an effort in May by Wake County state House members to tack on an amendment to a bill to shift more than $9.3 million for the relocation of the DMV headquarters to Nash County to the state Division of Highways Maintenance Fund. The effort failed 63-52.

State Rep. James Gailliard, D-Nash, said what happened on the House floor was an “11th-hour scare,” but he said the relocation of the DMV headquarters to Rocky Mount is “absolutely” a done deal.

“We had a lot of rural communities voting with us on this,” Gailliard said. “Republicans voted with us on this.”

Gailliard said he believes some of the DMV workers are going to retire early, some are going to go work for another government agency, some are going to commute to Rocky Mount and some are going to relocate to the Rocky Mount area.

“I think we’re going to sell some houses — and some people are going to decide that living in a rural community is a whole lot better than living in Raleigh,” he said. “And when I want to go to DPAC (the Durham Center for the Performing Arts) or when I want to go to a Durham Bulls game or whatever, I can do that once every other month, but I’m going to enjoy the life of rural living.

’And you’re going to have jobs created for people that live in Nash, Edgecombe or Wilson counties because they’ll be within an easy commute of the DMV,” he added.

He said his guess is the Rocky Mount and Wilson areas are going to pick up anywhere from 125-150 jobs as a result of DMV workers leaving or joining another agency.

He said he does not specifically know how large of an impact there is going to be to the local economy as a result of the relocation of the DMV headquarters, “but it’s going to help us.”

The General Assembly requires a process for relocating the DMV from the present headquarters in Raleigh due to health and safety issues beyond the state’s control. The DMV has to leave the New Bern Avenue location by autumn 2020.

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