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2010 marks the beginning of a new decade that will be one of the most important periods of time since Fayetteville’s birth nearly 250 years ago. We have the opportunity to not only grow and prosper but to transform the culture and economy of our community and improve the lives of future generations.

This is truly Fayetteville’s time. During this traditional time of making New Year’s resolutions let us resolve to enjoy these special times and to be thankful for the many blessings we have as well as ensuring we seize the opportunities in front of us.

010610 cofay.jpgThe signs of positive change are clear and all around us. It only requires that we pay attention to the subtle but unmistakable signs of a community transforming itself into a culturally diverse and economically vibrant city that is poised to lead North Carolina.

In the past several years, the growth in our local economy received national attention with Fayetteville now ranking 13th out of 366 urban areas in the entire country for growth. Our housing market led the entire nation and was even recognized in Parade magazine. Our school system had the highest percentage of schools meeting federal benchmarks among North Carolina’s largest school systems. Newsmax magazine ranked Fayetteville among the 25 cities in the country that best express American values. The number of passengers departing and arriving at our airport saw double-digit increases, in spite of a national business recession. A higher percentage of people had jobs in the greater Fayetteville area than most places in the entire state and nation.

Local taxes and fees in Fayetteville ranked 27th among North Carolina’s largest cities according to state reports. We were ranked among the best mid-sized cities in which to locate a business. Fayetteville’s per-capita income grew by 7.7 percent, ranking us Number 1 in North Carolina and 12th in the entire United States. We’ve opened military contracting offices for new names like Boeing and Booze Allan Hamilton and grown our own with K3, RLM and the Logistics Company. Hundreds of our local citizens got involved in helping position this community for well-planned growth. We saw young professionals move here or return home in increasing numbers and begin to take their roles in leading us forward.

And the new year looks just as exciting as we break ground on the $15 million North Carolina Veterans Park and the Hope VI project with its projected $113 million investment in our city. We will begin to see the arrival of the first wave of well-paying Department of Defense jobs with the relocation of the U.S. Army Forces Command and the U.S. Army Reserve Command. We will continue to address the visual blight and rebuild our city. And we will see our beloved military come home to their families and to the community watching over them.

We, as a community, will have to find solutions to our challenges. We won’t have the funding in place to build all the schools and roads we need. Parking is a growing issue in our downtown. We still too often see the plight of poverty and the homeless. Crime continues to challenge even our best efforts. We still wrestle with the challenges of rapid growth and the impact of a tightening state budget. And there is never enough money to do all that needs to be done.

But we have been so richly blessed, and we know the great things happening here are not happening in other cities around the country.

Perhaps Fayetteville’s greatest blessing is that we have come to a true understanding of what we are and an even greater appreciation of what we can become.

We are in the midst of a cultural and economic transformation unmatched in our proud history. It will require our best efforts, yours and mine, to make sure we take full advantage of the many opportunities coming our way. I encourage you to get involved in our journey to an even greater city. Volunteer for a board or commission, help a child, reach out to feed the homeless, thank a military family, tell friends about the great city we are becoming, and pray for God’s continued blessings on each of us.

Ten years from now people won’t remember who the mayor or city council was, but they will know that this city changed and that those changes improved the quality of life for all of our citizens for generations to come.

May God bless you during this New Year season and may God continue to bless our great city.

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