COVEROur Mission is to be an advocate for economic development and quality of life by engaging our business leaders in influencing local public policy issues. We will provide a respected business voice to which government, policy, and media leaders turn for reliable, non-partisan policy guidance.

And so it begins: A sizeable group of Fayetteville business, professional and civic leaders have come together to tackle a decades-old problem in our community. Some see the issue as lack of unified direction. Others see the problem as community divisiveness and resistance to change. John McCauley, president of Vision 2026, defines the issue as all the above. At a kick-off social gathering last week to officially launch the Vision 2026 initiative, McCauley challenged nearly 200 local community movers and shakers in attendance to join the movement. “We’ve been resistant to change and it’s costing us jobs. We’ve allowed too many forces to divide us,” he added. McCauley is a local businessman and president of Fayetteville’s Highland Paving Company.

Vision 2026 was founded by Developer Ralph Huff, owner with his wife Linda of H&H Homes of Fayetteville. He is also an owner/partner in Coldwell Banker Advantage, one of the largest real estate brokerage firms in the region. Huff, a native of Hoke County, is a 1972 graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a degree in business administration. He was recently inducted to the Fayetteville Public Works Commission board of directors. In 2010, Huff co-chaired the Linda Lee Allan Legacy Fund on behalf of the Chamber of Commerce and raised $2 million for economic development in our community. His commitment to the Fayetteville/Cumberland County community has been unwavering and his generous contributions have left an indelible legacy.

Mac Healy serves as Vice President of Vision 2026. He is the owner and Vice President of Healy Wholesale. Healy has been a driving force behind the North Carolina Civil War History Center proposed for Fayetteville. Fayetteville native Jason Poole is serving as treasurer of the organization. He is a CPA and partner in the Certified Public Accounting firm of Todd, Rivenbark and Puryear. These four noteworthy executives lead a founding board of directors that reads like a virtual Who’s Who of successful local organizations, businesses and institutions. Already, Vision 2026 has recruited over 150 members to this non-profit organization, and the momentum is growing. The timing is near perfect. The Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce is about to name a new president and CEO. They have recently increased their staff by hiring Patricia Gonzalez to head up membership development. In addition, Jack Rostetter, an executive with H&H Homes, has been named chairman of the Fayetteville/Cumberland County Economic Development Corporation and recently hired Robert Van Geons of Salisbury, North Carolina, to serve as the FCEDC’s executive director and industry hunter.

The overall objectives and mission of the Vision 2026 organizers and members is to rally the community as well as our city and county elected officials and move Fayetteville and Cumberland County forward into the 21st century. Huff, McCauley, Healy and Poole are devoting their time and energies toward economic development and making our community more attractive to business and industry with anticipation of providing the jobs, amenities and quality of life that will be attractive to young professionals. “We had become uncompetitive,” declared McCauley in his address to the crowd last week. Vision 2026 is unique. It is the first local economic development initiative to be launched exclusively by successful business and professional leaders. In addition to the 100 plus committee members, it was estimated that dozens of local and supportive community leaders along with several city, county and state elected public officials attended the launch party, said Huff. Not only is the mission of Vision 2026 to advocate for economic growth and improve the quality of life in Fayetteville, but also to engage business leaders in the process of influencing local public policy issues.

Early last year, Huff led a team that successfully promoted passage in the city of a $35 million dollar parks and recreation bond. This became the impetus for Vision 2026. Vision 2026 has identified five projects they believe will propel our community to the forefront of the state and position us to compete economically with other communities. Two of these projects are already well underway.

Baseball Stadium: The Vision 2026 executives predict as much as $100 million dollars in value added to downtown Fayetteville with construction of the $33 million baseball stadium and the renovation of the former Prince Charles Hotel. Residential, retail, eateries and professional offices are planned for the acreage around the baseball stadium in the general area bounded by the mainline railroad tracks, Hay Street and Ray Avenue. An apartment building and parking deck are included. The final plans are still under development between the city and the developing contractor, Prince Charles Holdings. The stadium itself is being modeled after a larger but very similar ballpark in Columbia, SC and will seat an estimated 4,500 fans.

The North Carolina Civil War History Center is proposed for the grounds of the Fayetteville Arsenal. Private pleges of $7 million have been committed and both the City and County governments have pledged $7.5 million dollars each, pending the state legislature provides $30 million. Once built, the history center would become a branch of the North Carolina Museum of History which would be responsible for its upkeep.

A multi-million dollar performing arts center is another proposed project. The PAC as envisioned by Huff would be located on Person Street near Eastern Boulevard although other potential sites are also under consideration. Vison 2026 will also advocate for County-wide water expansion. “Inferior water will not fuel economic expansion,” Huff said. The Fayetteville Public Works Commission, the local electric, water and sewer utility, recently lifted previous restrictions that limited extension of public water outside the Fayetteville city limits. PWC Executive Director David Trago and members of the board were on hand at the launch. Controlling storm water runoff is the fifth objective. However, Huff and many others agree that this may not be the time to promote what has become a political hot potato following Hurricane Matthew.

Huff and the Vision 2026 committee believe the movement will succeed in bringing the community together by utilizing local leadership as the catalyst for bringing local residents, the elected officials of the city, county and school board, the cultural arts community and the hospitality industry and others to all work together for the public good. In a recent newspaper article Huff wrote: “This new era of cooperation will help lead Fayetteville and Cumberland County into the forefront of progressive communities in our state.”

We believe this, and Vision 2026 believes this. Many of those leading this bold initiative have already made their fortunes and left their philanthropic mark on this community. Now, it’s time for us to get to work on behalf of our future generations. I heard someone say very emphatically “It’s now or never!” I prefer to think “It’s Now, forever.”

If you would like to know more about Vision 2026 or become an official member by joining the movement of the Vision 2026, go to Up & Coming Weekly will keep you informed on its progress and on all related Vision 2026 events.


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