A prosperous local economy is almost at our fingertips; however, if you are a fledgling organization or local merchant trying to establish and maintain a profitable small business in Cumberland County, you just may have to reach a little further. 

Doug Peters, president of the Fayetteville Area Chamber of Commerce, understands the importance of promoting and supporting local independent businesses. Small business is the cornerstone of a strong and enduring community and local economy. Bringing awareness to what local communities have to offer is the key to developing a vibrant local economy. This was one of the motivating forces behind the recent Shop Local campaign staged by the Chamber of Commerce.

Becoming familiar with our local community reaches far beyond just doing business locally. Our residents are becoming involuntarily detached from the very community in which we live. 

This is most evident to those of us who work in the media industry. We can attest to the growing trend that people are not familiar with their local surroundings and that small businesses are going out of business at an alarming rate. Why? Because we have been lured into the 21st century infatuation with the Internet, online services and social media like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. As 21st century human beings, our heads and eyes are constantly focused on our computers, iPads and iPhones. Consequently, we know more about what’s going on halfway around the world then we do right here in our own backyard. 

Fortunately, the Internet is not the be-all-and-end-all solution when it comes to developing awareness and communication especially in our own local community. Granted, social media has its place in our society; however, one must be aware that it is gradually deteriorating our involvement and intimacy with our family, friends and local surroundings. 

Why? Because involvement and intimacy take time and effort to develop. The Internet and all its addictive facets for knowledge and entertainment allows us to live in the moment. In reality, the Internet is just another media source that can complement any business or organization by providing information. However, when it comes to establishing credibility, touting the quality of your product or service or actually developing your brand,
 it is extremely ineffective and, in many cases, destructive. Brand, being defined as who you are, what you are and what you stand for cannot be defined on the Internet. This pertains to people, organizations and businesses. 

Here is a case in point, which happened very recently. Deborah Mintz, president of the Fayetteville and Cumberland County Arts Council, and I hosted 25 members of the Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Fayetteville. Our task for the day was to give them a brief introduction to the arts, history and cultural venues that can be found within our community. Deborah and I have been doing this as a team for nearly 20 years. We take great pride in showcasing these venues. Our guests are always pleasantly surprised at the quantity of quality venues our community has to offer. Even more amazing was how many of these folks, many of them Millennials, were totally unaware and out of touch with the community. How can that be? 

Full disclosure, these people were participating in Leadership Fayetteville to learn about the community. But, some participants have lived here in Fayetteville and Cumberland County for 10, 15 and 20 years or more and were not aware of some of the basic community arts, entertainment and cultural gems at our disposal like the Dogwood Festival, Cape Fear Regional Theatre, Cape Fear Botanical Garden, the FireAntz hockey team or the fact that we have not one, but two, symphony orchestras. 

There is no real excuse for this except to realize that the Internet, iPhones and iPads are robbing us of our sense of community. Finding the good stuff takes effort and with effort comes reward. 

I invite all of our readers to take the time to get to know our community. You won’t find it on the Internet. You need to put down your phones, open your eyes and look at all that is around it. Fayetteville has much to offer and one of its best offerings is the warm and open people who call it home. Get to know them. Enjoy our community. You might just be surprised. Thank you for reading Up and Coming Weekly.

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