Thumbs up, thumbs down: Tier 1 ranking can help supercharge Wilson’s economy

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THUMBS UP to the prospect of more state economic development dollars flowing to Wilson County projects when the N.C. Department of Commerce’s new tier rankings take effect next year.

Wilson and Nash will be reclassified from Tier 2 to Tier 1 counties with the change of calendars on Jan. 1. The lower the number on the three-tier scale, the more economically distressed a community is, and the higher the priority for incentives that can sweeten the deal for businesses seeking a new home in the Tar Heel State.

It’s bittersweet to receive the “most distressed” designation, but we’re looking on the bright side. If Wilson’s able to leverage that status to lure job-creating industries here sooner rather than later, our time in that tier need not be long.

Wilson County has a wealth of positives, including the city of Wilson’s Greenlight Community Broadband infrastructure, a thriving public art scene, a rich agricultural history, a future-focused public school system and a powerhouse of a community college that routinely partners with local employers to provide tailored training. We also have our challenges, such as an unemployment rate that’s regularly among the five highest among the state’s 100 counties.

With some hard work and cooperation, we can use the former to improve the latter. The Tier 1 county designation may be the stimulus we need to supercharge Wilson County’s economy.

THUMBS DOWN to the Rocky Mount City Council, which pressed ahead with its ill-advised and meddlesome plan to prohibit tractor-trailer cabs from parking in residential neighborhoods last month.

City officials are writing warning tickets as the first phase of implementing the controversial ordinance, the Rocky Mount Telegram reported, with the enforcement of parking fines tentatively set to begin Jan. 15. Happy New Year from big rigs’ Big Brother.

Our neighbor to the north has replaced the welcome mat with a giant “keep out” sign for workers in a proud, undervalued and critical industry, earning incredulous headlines like “Drivers can’t park trucks at their own homes in Rocky Mount, N.C.,” in the trade publication Truckers News.

Approached by a few vocal NIMBY types who object to sharing space on their streets with commercial trucks, council members should have known better than to butt in.

Legal remedies for blocking driveway access or running over the flowerbed already exist. Property disputes between neighbors are better settled in the civil courts than addressed through the blunt instrument of citywide policy. Individual complaints call for case-specific solutions, not a blanket ban on all truckers parking where they live to punish a small minority of offenders.

A mass exodus of truck-driving homeowners and a decline in property values would serve Rocky Mount right, but beleaguered road warriors won’t be house-shopping in the Wilson city limits. We’ve had a similar ordinance on the books since 1969.

Our city council could distinguish itself by lifting the ban on big rigs. With more than 51,000 trucking vacancies in the United States, the next generation of men and women who deliver our food, fuel and furniture will need to live — and park — somewhere. Why not Wilson?

THUMBS UP to Mike and Becky Cannon, the Wilson couple whose efforts to help those struggling with opioid addiction recently earned them the Dogwood Award from N.C. Attorney General Josh Stein.

They received the honor for their work with the JCANS Foundation, a nonprofit they started after son Jonathan Cannon died from a 2015 heroin overdose. The Cannons are already providing recovery and support resources to those battling substance use disorder, and in the year ahead, they hope to open a local detox and rehabilitation center.

“Mike and Becky have taken the unimaginable pain of losing their son, Jonathan, and channeled it in helping hundreds of other people to get the treatment that they need to fight the disease of addiction,” Stein said during the award ceremony.

Named for North Carolina’s state flower, the Dogwood Award recognizes Tar Heels “who are dedicated to keeping people safe, healthy and happy in their communities,” according to the N.C. Department of Justice.

Mike and Becky Cannon fit the bill. They are making Wilson County and all of North Carolina a better place by extending a helping hand to those caught in the fierce and fearsome grip of addiction. We salute them for their selfless work.