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State of the County Address 2023

For immediate release:  February 6, 2023

Smithfield, NC – This year, the Chairman of the Johnston County Board of Commissioners, Butch Lawter, delivered the State of the County address through a video produced by the County's Public Information Office. The video aired live at this morning's Board of Commissioners meeting.

In the address Chairman Lawter discusses the County's continued investment in infrastructure and the economic development highlights from the past year, you'll also get an update on some major County projects currently underway.

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Below you'll find the full transcript of the State of the County address:

Thank you for joining me for another State of the County address. I am Johnston County Board of Commissioners Chairman, Butch Lawter and I am pleased to be able to present to you just a few of the many accomplishments and achievements we've had at the County level over the past year.

One of the biggest undertakings we've had as Commissioners in 2022 is working toward the implementation of a new Comprehensive Land Use Plan. The plan will provide a framework to help guide growth and development in Johnston County for years to come. After four public forums and six steering committee meetings we will hold our final public hearing in the coming months and hope to adopt the land use plan later this year.

We continue to see steady, shared growth across our region with some key economic development announcements over the past year. Do Good Foods investment in the Selma community, the life science expansion project at Novo Nordisk in Clayton, Edgewater's 500,000 square foot, Class A distribution facility in Benson, and the construction of the Al Neyer industrial facility in Smithfield are just a few examples of how Johnston County has proven itself as an attractive destination for industries across the nation. County leaders are also looking down the road to find creative ways to bolster job growth. This is evident in the recent approval of $17.5 million in local funds to help with the construction of a new workforce training center in Four Oaks. 

Several studies to plan for future growth were initiated in 2022. A critical regional infrastructure study is in its first phase, which will help lay the groundwork for public utilities to determine future water and wastewater needs. Phase two of that study will begin later this year. A Countywide pay study was approved in the spring of 2022 and implemented last fall to help maintain and attract quality employees. County staff continue to provide unparalleled customer service that our residents have come to know and expect. To better accommodate our staff and service providers, a space needs study was completed in 2022, which will help guide the creation of new County facilities in the coming years. 

The grand opening of the new Johnston County Detention Center and Public Safety center is on the horizon. The 115,000 square foot, state-of-the-art detention center provides much needed space for the Sheriff’s Office while the public safety center, which is slated to open in the summer of 2023, will help expand and centralize our emergency services operations.

The County remains in solid financial standing as the finance department continues its work on the seven year capital financial plan to better forecast long-range future capital needs for the County.

In November, voters approved a $177 million school bond referendum that will fund construction of a new high school, a new elementary school, and several individual projects at schools across the County. The next month, Commissioners allocated additional funds to enhance security measures at all Johnston County Public Schools. Residents can rest assured that school safety will always be a top priority for our Board. 

The Board helped Johnston Community College take a big step forward in 2022 by ensuring high school graduates have every opportunity to advance their education through the implementation of the Johnston County Commissioners Promise Program. This program supplements state grants and helps bridge the gap in tuition fees not covered by federal Pell grants or other state funds. 

We continue our focus on future parks, greenways and open space opportunities after successfully holding multiple community engagement meetings for the new Johnston County Regional Park in Cleveland.  A draft master plan for the regional park will be presented to the Board later in the year. Trail enhancements continue in the County through technical studies of feasible paths and the implementation of a Countywide greenway system. 

As always, I'd like to express my gratitude to the citizens of Johnston County for their steadfast support, as well as to the Board of Commissioners for their commitment and dedication to the County. These accomplishments would not have been attainable without the tireless efforts of our incredible County staff who are committed to delivering high quality service to every person who calls Johnston County home. Thank you and God bless.