Strengthening city codes to improve property conditions topped the list of priorities set at the conclusion of a series of public workshops on a new Salem Economic Development Strategic Plan.

A close second on the priority list was mobilizing citizens to look for ways to improve internet and cellular access in Dent County, including actively soliciting funding and policy changes to facilitate those improvements.

The public workshops, attended by many members of the Salem community, concluded in late August. The final plan was to be presented to the board of aldermen this week by economic development director Sally Burbridge.

Third on the list of priorities voted on at the final workshop was developing and implementing a marketing/educational campaign to highlight resources and programs specifically focused on aiding small businesses in Dent County.

Fourth was utilizing apprentices and labor from active workforce training programs to appropriately save dollars for the city and provide experience opportunities for trainees.

Fifth was completing the City Hall Auditorium remodel into the planned Salem Civic Theater.

Three priorities tied for sixth:

• A new city/county website

• Supporting student entrepreneurial education programs as they develop

• Partnering with other community organizations to improve the quality of housing stock and appearance of neighborhoods

Four priorities tied for seventh place:

• Construction of new building for Construction/Technology Trades at Salem High School using pending Workforce Initiative Grant (CDBG) funding

• Supporting and assisting development of community trail system when appropriate

• Assessing and recommend edits to local development incentives and policies contained in the strategic plan document

• Either reaching a formal agreement with Dent County Commons or purchasing it to develop a robust plan to market and manage the facility for the best and highest use for the community with the intent to maximize its utility

Tied for eighth place on the priority list were assessing the need for housing/building demolition and determine best steps for moving forward, and attaining certified site status at Master's Industrial Park.

Tied for ninth were downtown street enhancements, like sidewalks and lighting, and a programming and marketing plan for civic theater including arts and culture programming.

Completing the top 10, in a tie, were a community/directional signage plan and construction along with researching funding options for facade improvements and building rehabilitation.

Other identified priorities, in descending order, included:

• Developing a community re-branding strategy

• Making airport runway and apron/taxiway improvements

• Developing a tourism marketing plan for 2020

• Developing a marketing plan for downtown promoting history, arts and culture events

• Pursuing national historic designation for downtown – either as a district or individual buildings

• Working with High School Equivalency program and instructor locally to promote and fully utilize opportunities for citizens

• Partnering with R-80 Schools to work into the Construction Trades Program a section or once a year project focused on historic preservation

• Completing zoning review and updates resulting in updated city zoning map

• Researching and implementing alternative structuring of city staff to improve code enforcement if appropriate

• Assessing city electrical system for necessary future upgrades to accommodate industry and residential needs

• Coordinating with local, regional and state entities to offer business management and development education

• Identifying economic partner trade shows and events to promote Salem/Dent County for business attraction

• Developing programming to develop STEM training (requires funding)

• Upgrading systems at wastewater treatment plant to provide for industrial & residential use

• Construction of electric feeder line to Masters Industrial Park to accommodate load requirements for industry development

• Developing "seasonal colors” routes and marketing material (fall colors and spring blooms)

• Adding a new city water well and water tower to increase capacity for industrial and residential use