PILOT MOUNTAIN — Looking back at this past year, Town Manager Blair Knox said he is encouraged that 2010 is going to be a great year for the town.
“Looking at 2009, we need to look at the present and the future at the same time,” Knox said.
The most significant project for Pilot Mountain in 2009, Knox said, has been the Pilot Center, which is a satellite campus of Surry Community College. That center is under construction and will be open in May of 2010.
“Funds were provided to the Pilot Center by the Golden LEAF Foundation through very hard work on the part of the commissioners. We expect 1,500 students a day here at that location. When you look at the population of the town at approximately 1,300 people, it’s a completely new economy because with that kind of traffic it changes the very nature of how business will be done because of the demand that we can bring in this town,” Knox said.
He said the one thing that he has found in looking at different communities across the state is, “Where can you find a community of 1,300 people, where you will have the educational opportunities of a new elementary school, the new middle school, the present high school and Surry Community College, where you can also get your four-year degree from there — not to mention the other amenities such as the Armfield Center and the Pilot Center Park, which is a 90-acre park, with two-and-a-half miles of walking trails and stream restoration? That’s all located behind the Armfield Civic Center. So we are embracing the educational components that are out there and the environmental components that go along with it,” Knox said.
He said the nature of the town is environmental.
“We have a mountain in our backyard, so that’s something we feel strongly about.”
Knox said Pilot Mountain is experiencing the same economic crisis that all other government entities are experiencing right now. But, on the other hand, the town has acquired grant funding that was secured before the stimulus money became available. He said the town is in the process of pursuing stimulus funds as well.
“It’s like, is the glass half empty or half full? Government is a little odd in the way it works. It’s often that way where your tax rate may be down and you may run a deficit, but on the other hand, you are increasing your assets and your quality of life in the community. So when the economy turns around, the glass will be completely full. That’s our goal,” Knox said.
More potential big news for the town hinges on a pending grant for a Regional Computer and Technology Center, which will cost about $2 million to create. He said he does not know the status of the grant request, but if it comes through, then it would mean not only a college, but a regional center that will bring people into the heart of downtown Pilot Mountain.
He said another thing that has benefited the town has been the festivals — the Hot Nights, Hot Cars Cruise-Ins and Mayfest. He said during the cruise-ins that have become hugely popular, there are about 8,000 people who visit the downtown area once a month. He said if every one of those people only spent $10 that’s a great deal of money coming into the area.
“It really keeps our downtown businesses going. That has become a cornerstone of economic development at this point,” Knox said.
The town also is working with the North Carolina Department of Energy to get an award for $200,000 for weatherization and reducing energy consumption in the buildings owned by the town.
Knox said another plus for the town is that every downtown space is taken except one.
“We’ve seen more small businesses coming in applying for licenses. If somebody comes out, within a month, there is somebody else coming right back in. We see the growing economy, but it’s based on small business owners. That’s what they have been preaching at the federal level and I think that it is true, because industrialization is not America’s drum anymore,” he said.
Moving forward into 2010, Knox said, Pilot Mountain is growing in leaps and bounds. He is excited about the future.
“We have all of these elements that are coming together to create a community that I don’t think you can find anywhere in North Carolina with these assets and these quality of life mechanisms in a town our size. That puts Pilot Mountain very much apart from other locations. If you want to live in a small community close to an urban area, that small community also has very urban amenities — Pilot Mountain is where you need to be.”
Contact Mondee Tilley at email@example.com or at 719-1930.