Well, I lived here for five years. When you first arrive the smell of the paper mill will overwhelm you. The paper mill is one of the biggest employers there. After a while you get use to it and don't notice it anymore.
The most recent addition is the Randy Parton Theater. It is right off of I-95 and is expected to bring in lots of out-of-towners. There is a small strip mall and a Wal-Mart, but nothing major. The only major department stores are Belk's and JCPenney, if that gives you any idea.
There is a local community college with a nursing program and a dental hygiene program, but they are the highlights. The nearest larger city is Rocky Mount, about 30 minutes south on I-95. You are within 15 minutes of the Virginia border. You are about 1.5 hours away from the capital of North Carolina, Raleigh. It is a straight shot there. Take I-95 to Hwy 64 to Raleigh. Very easy to get from one to the other.
Not much job opportunity and absolutely nothing to do. There are a few local billiard halls and a couple bars. There are no major fine dining establishments...just your Ruby Tuesday's, Applebees, etc.
Overall, Roanoke Rapids is a hum-drum place to call home. Other than Lake Gaston, there is no major reason to go there.