It’s a great marketing tool to be right next door to a vibrant, growing community like Raleigh, Wake County and the Triangle. But, as Johnston County leaders are discovering, it has its drawbacks too.
The Department of Commerce, which now manages the once-troubled Rural Center, doesn’t consider Johnston County to be rural.
The distinction is an important one because it means Johnston County loses an opportunity to apply for grants that it was once eligble for.
It’s easy to see both sides of the argument here. Johnston County is clearly becoming a bedroom community for the greater Triangle. The Cleveland community is filled to the gills with homes of people who travel into Wake County for work each day. The commercial buildup in the 40/42 area clashes with anyone’s definition of rural. Clayton is growing like a weed and Johnston County boasts North Carolina’s newest municipality in Archer Lodge.
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But it’s not hard to travel just beyond those places and feel like you’re so far out in the country that electricity may not have even been run there. Farms abound and the agricultural feel of Johnston County is just as strong as it’s ever been.
Johnston County lawmakers say they will lobby lawmakers to reassess the Commerce Department’s decision. That’s a wise move. Lawmakers should also take the time to invite Commerce officials to spend a little bit of time riding around the county to get a better feel for the decisions they’re making. It’s hard to have a good understanding of the situation in real terms if all you do is sit at a desk and crunch Census numbers.
After all, those decisions have real impact. Because Johnston County is still largely rural in nature, it’s hard to generate enough tax revenue to do all the things Johnstonians want their county government to do. Funding from agencies like the Rural Center or the Department of Commerce make a very real difference in the lives of Johnston County residents, both in the towns and in rural Johnston County. Losing that pipeline would cause harm. That’s not what government – at any level – should do.