Named America’s Most Patriotic City by Time Magazine, Fayetteville, North Carolina is best known as the home of Fort Bragg military installation. With strong community ties and a commitment to celebrating cultural diversity, the city is poised for a bright future.
The most populated city in southeastern North Carolina, Fayetteville is located between New York City and Miami, Florida. Situated an hour and a half away from the coast and three and a half hours from the mountains, the city offers the best of both worlds. For all its closeness to America’s treasured landmarks, Fayetteville is very much a military community. Mayor Nat Robertson embraces the uniqueness of the city.
“This is a community that loves Fort Bragg; we love our soldiers,” Robertson said. “We’re fortunate enough that if we go to the mall or walk the streets of downtown to be able to see and rub elbows with the heroes that protect this country every day. The USAA also ranked Fayetteville the number one most friendly military community in the country.”
In recent years, city council has realized the need to diversify the economy through the money garnered by the military – ranging in the area of $100 million a month. Offering a strong, stable quality of life, the influx of money from the military has not only ranked Fayetteville one of the best places in the country to start a business, but also one of the best performing housing markets in the state. As Public Information Specialist, Nathan Walls praises the economic development that’s ongoing in the city.
“We were #2 in that ranking [best cities to start a business] – behind Jacksonville, Florida,” Walls said. “We ranked above many large cities including: New Orleans, Las Vegas, Oklahoma City. The fact that we were #2 in the country speaks volumes.”
Having taken an aggressive approach to recruiting and retaining existing businesses and developers to Fayetteville, council’s goal is to be business-friendly through a variety of incentives and policies to drive investment in the community. Backed by solid rankings, Fayetteville’s economic development strategy is on solid ground.
“We received an accolade by Manpower Incorporated calling us the third-best job market in the nation,” Walls said. “We’re a part of the state that was ranked the fourth-best business state by Forbes Magazine in 2012. Fayetteville was also ranked 18th-best performing large city in America by the Milken Institute’s Best Performing Cities in 2010. We’ve also been called a sanctuary for soldiers.”
Take a walk through Fayetteville and you’ll notice how vibrant, exuberant and culturally diverse the city is. Built and re-enforced by its military upbringing, the Dogwood City, as it is alternatively known, is a melting pot of cultures. Whether you’re craving Thai, Cuban, and Italian, or want to go on a West African culinary adventure, Fayetteville has you covered.
“Fayetteville is a very diverse community,” Robertson said. “Some of that comes from the military; we’ve got all nationalities here, it’s a true melting pot. I really believe that’s why it’s such a friendly place to live. We’re all so different and certainly respect and celebrate our diversities.”
Choosing to celebrate the differences rather than making them a focal point, Fayetteville encourages and displays its openness and patriotic spirit throughout the year and around the city with local events and attractions.
“We have festivals a couple of times a year, including the International Folk Festival, which is in the fall, and the Dogwood Festival, which is in the spring,” Robertson said. “The Dogwood Tree is our official symbol for the city, so we have an official festival.”
“These festivals bring other communities into Fayetteville,” Robertson continued. “In one weekend, we’ll have a quarter-million people coming out to celebrate.”
Sown into the cultural fabric and identity of Fayetteville, the togetherness displayed during the International Folk Festival espouses the city’s ties beyond just the communal variety, but more like a big, well-represented, and colorful family.
“We have a Parade of Nations where people dress in common attire from their native countries,” Walls said. “It’s very colorful; all their flags are displayed near Festival Park. It’s very unique – you hear different kinds of music that you wouldn’t hear anywhere else.”
Passed on through their deep-lying roots to the military, city council’s forward-thinking, get-things-done mantra is ever present in Fayetteville’s continued expansion. Rather than trying to do everything on their own, the city forges relationships to push development and services.
“One of the things we’re certainly on track with is moving forward with our government partners,” Robertson said. “Instead of living in a silo, we communicate regularly with the country and state delegations by bringing them into conversations about growth, the economy and land use.”
“We’re unique in the fact that we own our own public works commission – which is a full-service utility offering water, sewer, and power,” Robertson continued. “Whereas, other communities buy their power or services from third-parties, we own our own.”
The unique ownership opportunity presents a host of benefits for the city. With infrastructure upgrades continually being planned and added to the pipeline, Robertson outlined the latest developments and where Fayetteville is heading.
“The state recently funded a billion dollars in road network improvements,” he said. “We’ve also got infrastructure improvements going on daily, because we own our own utility into the western part of the city and into the county.”
As the city grows, so too does the need for an agile transportation system to support them. With a population of well over 300,000 in the metropolitan area, the Fayetteville City Council has recognized the importance and is implementing new projects to feed the demand of an ever-changing community and economy to keep things moving.
“We just funded a new multi-modal bus terminal, which will connect with our Amtrak line – a $14 million project,” Robertson said. “We have just authorized progression on a $25 million airport improvement plan and we have broken ground on a community pool that will service western Fayetteville.”
From leisure to land and airport transportation projects, the eclectic mix of developments and attractions will take time to complete, but will revitalize and add to the already vibrant atmosphere around Fayetteville.
“All of them have a relatively short start date, but of course some of them will stretch out over the next number of years,” Robertson said. “The highway improvements, specifically, won’t be completed until 2018/2019. The pool we hope to have up by the summer. The new, multi-modal terminal will be up by the end of the year.”
PERSON STREET STORMWATER GREENSCAPE
As innovations continue across the city – with the introduction of the Fay Fix-IT App to the FayWorx work order management program and a planned combined 9-1-1 call center within the county – Fayetteville remains committed to constantly developing. Driven by growth, the Dogwood City is taking a novel approach to sustaining the environment and its passion for green initiatives.
“We’re replacing all of our street lights with LED lights to conserve power,” Robertson said. “We’ve also launched a new project downtown. What we’re doing is turning one of our major thoroughfares into a green street. This will allow capturing of rain water and greenery that will be friendly to the environment.”
Spread across two blocks of Person Street between Cool Spring Street and the Blount’s Creek Bridge, the project will use Low Impact Development (LID) technology. A first of its kind in the state, the innovative stormwater design brings with it exclusive rewards and unique attributes, ranging from: enhanced downtown character, connection with the multi-use trail system and greater community engagement to improving access, mobility and environmental resiliency.
Walls and Robertson want other cities to follow Fayetteville’s lead and adopt the greenscape model to promote urban environmental awareness in a way that can be experienced first-hand. Partnering with the non-profit community group Sustainable Sandhills, the city’s pursuit of the green way of life empowers its residents to become active agents of change within the community.
THE FUTURE OF FAYETTEVILLE
Bound by a strong military presence and continual infrastructure development through innovative solutions, Fayetteville, North Carolina’s rise to prominence continues. With goals to become a regional destination that embraces multiculturalism, the city offers a distinct taste of life that’s different from anywhere else in the nation.
“We want to see growth in our community. We want to make our community inviting,” Robertson said. “It’s one of the best biggest small towns to live in. Fayetteville remains a safe place to live with the highest quality of life. Our greatest asset is the people and the diversity we celebrate here.”