WILLIAMSTON, N.C. (WNCT) – The federal government gave North Carolina three new interstate highway designations in 2016, and all three will one day run through eastern North Carolina.

Williamston Mayor Joyce Whichard-Brown grew up in the town. She said she has seen businesses leave downtown and people leave for jobs elsewhere.

The future Interstate 87 could change that and lead to growth down the road.

“I know it will create jobs and create opportunities to keep the people here instead of moving away,” Whichard-Brown said. “So, it means a lot.”

The state has 25 years to upgrade future I-87 to interstate standards. The road will connect the Hampton Roads area of Virginia to Raleigh with Martin County right in the middle.

“It’s extremely important,” said David Bone, Martin County manager. “We’ve always had the benefit of having the interchange between 64 and 17, which has sort of been the crossroads for northeastern North Carolina. But having that I-87 designation takes it the next step. So we have that much better access to the global markets and the global economy.”

President/CEO for Martin County Economic Development Jason Semple said the interstate designation means opportunity for the area.

“Having a blue shield in our county opens up a lot of projects that we didn’t have access to in the past,” said Semple, “As we respond to active projects for RFIs and those types of requests, it’s always the first thing, the first question they ask. Do you have interstate access? And now we can say that.”

Interstate access is important because when it comes down to easy access for companies looking to expand, the easier it is for them to get their products out, the better it is for their business.

“Logistics costs in a global, competitive environment are such a big component of every product,” Semple said. “And so however you can minimize that cost in getting from point A to point B, you will do that. Because when you’re dealing with global or international companies, pennies make a big difference.”

Whichard-Brown said she thinks it will make a big different for the people in Williamston.

“It means jobs,” said Whichard-Brown. “It means opportunities. And it means that Williamston will be booming again. It will be a vibrant place to live.”


Story by Ken Watling of WNCT Channel 9.