Even amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Beth Campos has hit the ground running in her new role as Rocky Mount’s economic and cultural director. Campos, who was hired earlier this year, will help bring new businesses to the town, support the ones already here and promote our area’s cultural initiatives. It’s a job that she described as having three components: tourism, economic development and small business development.

Certainly she has her work cut off for her — and in the middle of a global pandemic, no less — but given her background and enthusiasm for seeing the town thrive and grow, she definitely seems up for the challenge.

A native of Henry County and a 2009 graduate of Ferrum College, Campos has experience in the hospitality industry. She previously managed the Rocky Mount Applebee’s and was part owner of a Crossfit gym in Eden, North Carolina.

“Owning my own business really opened my eyes to how large industry and small business all go hand in hand,” she said in an article in The Franklin News-Post last week. She knows that in order for a town to succeed, both are vitally necessary.

One of the top priorities for Campos is filling up the vacant storefronts in town by hosting a small business incubator program. It would consist of a series of classes and offer participants incentives to open a business here. In addition, Campos also wants to ensure existing businesses will thrive as well.

Tying that all together would be to capitalize on what makes Rocky Mount unique. Campos cited annual events such as Come Home to a Franklin County Christmas and the Independence Day festival, as well as groups, including the Community Partnership for Revitalization and the Rocky Mount Rotary Club.

“We want Rocky Mount to be a place where people are proud to call home,” Campos said.

Campos is also looking to quiz the younger population on what would compel them to stay in the county after completing their secondary and post-secondary education. It’s no secret that younger generations who grew up in small towns are typically itching to move from under the microscope of where they grew up. But if staying were a choice, and not an obligation, what would that look like?

There would need to be ample career opportunities with competitive salaries, not only for college graduates, but also for those who work in the trades industry.

Adequate, affordable housing certainly would be a draw, as would creating a sense of place and of community.

Having access to outdoor recreation and entertainment might also rank high on the list as would the ability to walk or bike to shops and restaurants safely and conveniently. While the Harvester Performance Center has certainly enhanced the town’s stature in the entertainment arena, more restaurants and shops are needed to keep the momentum moving forward.

Even with the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, Campos is forging ahead with her work. But she shouldn’t be alone in promoting Rocky Mount as a great place to live and work. Really it’s up to all of us to support Campos in her role and to show others what’s so great about this area we call home.

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