During its March meeting, Rocky Mount Town Council introduced Beth Campos, the town’s new cultural and economic director.
According to the job description, Campos will be responsible for planning, organizing and directing the delivery of the town’s economic and cultural development initiatives. She will also work with Assistant Town Manager Matt Hankins in recruiting businesses to the Town of Rocky Mount and creating and curating a comprehensive cultural program to elevate the local economy through active place making. The position pays $55,000 annually.
Campos said she sees her position as part tourism, part economic director and part small business development.
A former small business owner, Campos said she believes Rocky Mount is a prime location for development, situated between Martinsville and Roanoke. Campos, a Henry native and 2009 Ferrum College graduate, has a background in hospitality and hopes her contacts in the lodging and restaurant industry will help her focus on bringing those types of businesses to the community.
Campos worked as a manager at the Applebee’s in Rocky Mount while majoring in history at Ferrum. She taught history at Magna Vista High School for two years, but decided that was not her long-term career path.
“I think growing up with my dad, who was a business owner, I was kind of looking for something more,” Campos said. “I wanted to direct my own path.”
She became an owner of a CrossFit gym in Eden, North Carolina and was involved in a community development group as a business owner in the area. She also gained experience with the Main Street program in North Carolina.
“Owning my own business really opened my eyes to how large industry and small business all go hand in hand,” Campos said. “You can’t just depend on large industry … for success of a town, you have to have both.”
Upon returning to the greater Roanoke area, Campos worked at Ballast Point Brewery in Botetourt County and then at Twin Creeks Distillery.
“It showed me the small businesses that are opening here and finding success here,” she said of her recent experience, adding that filling the vacant buildings in town is high on her list of priorities.
Campos hopes to host a business incubator program next year for prospective businesses. The program would consist of a series of classes and at the end there were would be cash prizes to open businesses in downtown Rocky Mount. She has been working with an official in Wytheville, where the town was able to incentivize four new businesses from the incubator program.
Campos acknowledged there should be a focus on current businesses also.
“We need to take care of our current businesses too,” she said, explaining she hopes to launch a small business spotlight in the near future. “I am still working on the logistics of it, but I think it will help recruit new businesses as well, if we are taking care of the businesses we have.”
She said she believes Rocky Mount is known for the Harvester Performance Center, but she wants to tout all the community offers.
“I want to capitalize on and support our community assets, which include: our people, events such as Come Home to a Franklin County Christmas and the Independence Day Festival, community organizations such as Community Partnership for Revitalization and Rocky Mount Rotary Club, our local history, the Harvester Performance Center, the Farmers’ Market and Citizen Square, established businesses, proximity to Ferrum College and Smith Mountain Lake, etc. and build on that momentum to encourage the opening of new small businesses that Rocky Mount doesn’t currently have,” Campos said.
“We want to have vibrant commercial areas and inviting outdoor spaces. We want Rocky Mount to be a place where people are proud to call home.”
Town Manager James Ervin said Campos will play a central role by taking the town’s success with the Harvester and leveraging it through a multitude of other activities to continue and sustain the area’s growth.
“We see the future of economic development deeply joined with creating a place and a culture that is one where businesses want to exist in,” Ervin said. “The recent Medicinal Tea announcement is a great example of the town and Franklin County each pursuing converging and self-encouraging strategies. Their selection of our community was tied to not only the normal incentives, but also to the culture and quality of life we are creating in Rocky Mount.
“We find example after example in communities across the U.S. where focusing on becoming the best locality you can be is the No. 1 way to jump start and sustain economic growth. As more and more of our retail economy moves to online channels, place making and a focus on being a community that people want to be in is core to sustaining Rocky Mount.”
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Campos said she had hoped to have a community calendar launched on the town’s website by fall and was planning to implement a survey to find areas where the money “leaks out of town.” She said she hoped to survey students at both Ferrum College and Franklin County High School to find out what it would take for young adults to stay or return to the community upon college graduation to build their lives.
Campos said she hopes to add to the events the town has, perhaps including the agricultural background with farm-to-table events, as well as the moonshine heritage.
Having housing for the people who will come to work at the Summit View Business Park is also on her radar of needs for the town.