Claremont plans for future growth

Claremont is moving full steam ahead.

Over the past several years, things have changed in Claremont. After seeing plants and jobs leave the area like the rest of Catawba County, the city has eyed recent successes that it wants to continue in the future.

New businesses like the Claremont Florist, O’Cup restaurant and Claremont Hardware and Supply, have filled formerly vacant storefronts, and the city's business park is busy with new partners.

New WiFi access downtown and planned updates to existing parks have also connected the community.

“All in all, everything is going good,” said Henry Helton, a Claremont resident and special events coordinator for the city. “It seems there’s always stuff going on. Things like the O’Cup have generated a lot of interest in people coming into town.”

The city is not resting on its laurels, though.

Claremont unveiled its 2012 Action Plan this week, a lengthy list of goals, plans and projects that the city wants to see completed in coming months and years.

The plan addresses five key areas, including parks and recreation, utilities, technology, economic development and responsive government.

Claremont City Council and city officials developed the plan during recent meetings and planning sessions, identifying what they say are key initiatives for the future.

“For us, it’s going to be a great tool moving forward,” said Claremont City Manager Doug Barrick. “As much as it is a document on paper, it’s an ever-evolving plan on paper that the council has agreed to update every year.”

Parks, recreation and culture
A lot of Claremont’s plans for development start with its natural and cultural resources.

The city recently hired a part-time programming position that will work to expand and schedule city functions in Claremont Park and other areas around town that could be used more.

“We want to see it being used more and more,” Barrick said, adding that Claremont Park could be home to sponsored events like tractor shows, music shows or other programs.

The city will also work to expand its greenways and sidewalks to increase foot traffic in the city. Though plans are in their infancy stage, Barrick said the city may look to replace existing sidewalk and expand greenways already in existence.

Other areas of interest include:

- building on the P.J. Stanley Memorial Scholarship, a program established by the Claremont City Council in 2011 for the late city councilman and public servant P.J. Stanley.

- preserving historical documents, such as photos and documents from the city past.

- senior citizen promotion.

City officials say a strong infrastructure is a key enabler of Claremont’s success with bringing in new business and residents.

The city, which operates two sewer plants, said expanding sewer capacity will have to be addressed in coming years for several reasons.

For its southern plant, which serves its industrial clients, Claremont will look to expand its sewer capacity by seeking regional partnerships that will enable rates to stay competitive and provide long-term capacity.

For its northern plant, which serves much of Claremont’s residential population, the city will look to update and replace a plant that Barrick said is more than 60 years old. Recently, Claremont has struggled with capacity issues at the plant, and the city will look to completely replace the existing structure or find additional space for its flow.

“It’s a driver behind the growth and future behind Claremont,” Barrick said.

Responsive government
Later this year, Claremont will start having “town hall meetings” in addition to its monthly city council meetings, giving residents a chance to connect and discuss issues with city officials.

“We are planning on some semi-annual ‘town hall meetings’ so that there can be some exposure to the city and help the citizens to hear from and talk to council, with any concerns or suggestions,” said Claremont Mayor Dave Morrow. “Sometimes suggestions can be out there and out of reach at the time, but it at least creates that involvement.”

The city will also look to implement a “Claremont 101” program, which will take citizens through different areas of government and explain how the city operates, Morrow said.

Economic development
Claremont plans to build on its recent successes in new businesses in coming years by continuing to fill empty storefronts, maintaining its existing businesses and recruiting new companies to its business parks.

Barrick said it’s going to take a diverse array of industry to make Claremont successful.

“The business park is the backbone of our tax structure, but we also want to see the mom-and-pop shops succeed as well,” he said. “How do we integrate those two communities together? We want to be able to be a catalyst for that.

“We also don’t want to lose sight of the EDC, but what can we do as a city to help recruit and help the businesses that don’t reach Scott Millar’s screen sometimes?”