HOFFMAN — A “rural planning team” will visit Hoffman two days next week to help the town decide whether it wants to lure businesses and — if it does — what kind.
Community economic-development planners Bruce Naegelen of Fayetteville and Jeff Emory of Albemarle work for the N.C. Main Street & Rural Planning Center, a division of the N.C. Department of Commerce that helps rural towns lure business and industry or, if they’d rather, more residents.
“(We’ll) provide a snapshot of what’s going on in the community right now, and what needs to start,” said Naegelen, who just finished a similar study in Biscoe, in Montgomery County. The team will “look at the potential for increased residential (development) or the potential for commercial coming in.”
At the moment, Hoffman has two businesses — two service stations, one of which is closed — as well as land set aside for a park and a former elementary school being used as a community center. By the end of the summer, it also should have completed the first phase of a sewer system.
Naegelen has been to Hoffman “a couple of times” already and has some ideas but not the data to predict whether the town could support them. The assessment he’ll complete Feb. 13 and 14 as part of a town commissioners’ workshop will help him refine those ideas.
Hoffman officials have a vision of what they’d like their town to be, he said, but they need direction.
Such assessments are fairly new to Commerce, Naegelen said Monday. In the past, the department has focused on five-year strategic plans.
“But we discovered that a lot of communities do not have the capacity for a big development plan,” he said. The two-day assessment gives such communities “a snapshot of existing conditions (that allows them to) see what the potential is.”
“It seems to me that (Hoffman has) some potential,” he said. The new sewer system, for example, “will bring in more inquiries (from businesses), so they need to be ahead of the curve on this.”
Mayor Tommy Hart said Monday that he’d like so see something like a Dollar General come to town. Gas station convenience stores “do well for us” but are limited. And driving to Aberdeen or Rockingham can be costly for those on low incomes, he said.
“We want to know where we are and where we can go from here,” Hart said.
“A lot of people like it quiet like it is” — without business development, he said. But “from what I’ve been hearing from the community, it would be nice to have another store.”
“We’re hoping the assessment will provide us with some immediate guidance on dealing with the interest we’re starting to receive from commercial and residential developers, and some potential future uses of the (former school),” Hart said.
On day one of their visit, Naegelen and Emory will tour the community and interview Hoffman residents alongside a work group of interested residents. On day two, they will present an overall assessment and recommendations that they think town commissioners could achieve within a year.
Reach Christine Carroll at 910-817-2673 or email@example.com.