Hope Mills is one of my favorite places in Cumberland County. For nearly three decades I have worked, shopped and conducted business there. I’m a member of the Hope Mills Chamber of Commerce and served on its board of directors for years. I’ve sponsored Ole Mill Days, shopped on Trade Street, rode in Christmas parades, judged Chili Cook-Offs and slung bean bags in Corn Hole contests. I admired and respected the honorable Al Bradford, followed Eddie Dees’ winning championship teams and mourned the passing of my dear personal friend Edwin Deaver. Hope Mills is the near perfect reflection of North Carolina work ethic, history and heritage and emmanates genuine southern hospitality.
You can imagine my enthusiasm and excitement when invited by the town leaders to assist them in sharing the Hope Mills story with the rest of Cumberland County. Together, we created the Hope Mills Initiative. This was a marketing partnership between the town of Hope Mills, Up & Coming Weekly community newspaper and the Hope Mills Chamber of Commerce. The initiative centered around adopting Up & Coming Weekly newspaper as Hope Mills’ media outreach for showcasing Hope Mills’ organizations and achievements, preserving the town’s history and traditions, marketing and branding SHOP LOCAL - SHOP HOPE MILLS, promoting economic development, encouraging community involvement and participation and enhancing and promoting Hope Mills’ quality of life. The partnership allowed the town to have its own “official” weekly community newspaper.
It was a major media undertaking that would have been cost-prohibitive for the town to create on its own. We agreed to make it happen because the mayor and board of commissioners all shared the same long-term vision of growth and prosperity for the Hope Mills community. Working closely with the commissioners, town manager Melissa Adams and Mayor Jackie Warner, we agreed upon mutual goals and objectives, and an agreement was reached where the town would invest $28,000 annually in the project and Up & Coming Weekly would match this amount and provide all the necessary resources to create Hope Mills’ own publication for local news, developments, achievements, events, organizations, business profiles and articles – all promoting, advocating for and branding the Hope Mills community.
Up & Coming Weekly provides 22 years of experience in Cumberland County, community journalism, plus the paper, ink, layout, design, writers, editors, racks and distribution. This project would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to create from scratch. After weeks of negotiation and fine tuning, a resolution was put before the town commissioners to enter into a partnership with Up & Coming Weekly and create the Hope Mills publication. The resolution was received positively, and it passed unanimously.
However, there are a few people in Hope Mills who do not share the positive visions of Mayor Warner and the elected officials. For them, I offer these insights and explanations.
In my 22 years as publisher of Up & Coming Weekly, I have never apologized for anything we have printed or presented to this community, nor have we ever been on the wrong side of an issue when it came to advocating for and supporting countywide issues. Our reputation and journalistic integrity are transparent. Additionally, we have never strayed from our newspaper’s mission and mandate to market, promote and brand the community by reporting and showcasing the good news and positive insights. We have never refused to advocate for a person, business or organization that contributes to our quality of life. Our newspaper has gained the trust of dozens of nonprofit organizations and hundreds of businesses, civic organizations and government entities. Currently, we have programs and partnerships with Fort Bragg, the county of Cumberland, the city of Fayetteville, Cape Fear Valley Hospital, Cumberland County Schools, PWC, the Hope Mills and Fayetteville Chambers of Commerce and the Better Business Bureau, just to name a few. Up & Coming Weekly is currently placing newspaper racks in 17 Cumberland County High Schools.
I don’t know what is causing all the negative hubbub on Hope Mills social media, but I assure you it has nothing to do with anything we have initiated. However, I do know this: I love Hope Mills, and our company has invested thousands of dollars in making sure the Hope Mills Initiative achieves the result of spreading the good news about Hope Mills throughout all of Cumberland County just as the leadership intended.
Hope Mills is now enjoying the most talented and professional leadership team it has seen in decades. The elected officials, department heads and support staff all seem to share the same positive vision for the success, growth and prosperity of the town. Leadership comes from the top. Mayor Jackie Warner, Mayor Pro Tem Mike Mitchell and Town Manager Melissa Adams present a tour de force in leadership style, reflecting logic, responsibility, common sense and a vision for future generations.
Facebook and social media, including the Hope Mills Chatter, are not legitimate media resources for information about the quality of life and future vision for the Hope Mills community.
Respectfully, Lisa Carter Waring is no Connie Chung or Judy Woodruff. Without credentials, Waring’s well-written and articulated articles in The Sandspur are appropriate for a small target audience, and her few hundred “screened and censored” social media followers on the Chatter. However, this pales in comparison to the bold and aggressive positive message that Hope Mills leadership intended for the hundreds of thousand residents, visitors and guests in Cumberland County. Hope Mills is becoming prominent and respected throughout the county. The town of Hope Mills is becoming “the mouse that roared.” Lisa Waring and cohort Meg Larson are afraid that roar will overwhelm and silence the pitter patter of their Chatter.
Meg Larson is a smart lady and could contribute much to the growing Hope Mills community. Unfortunately, and, for reasons unknown, Larson is clinging on to Waring’s coattail. That’s disappointing to many who had hoped Larson would become that respected voice of reason missing since the passing of Bob Gorman. Bob was smart, logical and passionate about anything that would move the town of Hope Mills forward. It was never about him. And, he was always a gentleman. Bob was a team player who respected new ideas and was willing to take risks. Above all, he was a leader and wanted to see Hope Mills grow and prosper. Meg Larson is no Bob Gorman.
Whether we continue to be the official media voice of Hope Mills or not will be determined by the town commissioners in the future. The reality is this – Lisa Carter Waring and Meg Larson do not want the town using Up & Coming Weekly as a media resource. They do not want another voice. They and they alone want to be the voice to control and influence the narrative of what happens in Hope Mills. Hope Mills has grown away from that way of thinking. I’m sure both these ladies are fine, upstanding citizens. However, neither of them shares the vision for growth and economic prosperity of Hope Mills that has been so aptly demonstrated by the mayor and other elected officials and staff members. In other words, they want things in Hope Mills to stay the same. No progress. No vision. No growth. No competition. No Up & Coming Weekly!
Why else would they object so adamantly to having a “good news” Hope Mills newspaper? They do not want another media source providing news and views to the residents, especially when the information is coming directly from the mayor’s office and town hall. Remember, we are all about transparency. We want public input. We want to hear what people have to say. That is why we established firstname.lastname@example.org.
I made a commitment, and we will continue to uphold our end of the partnership. The program is working and will continue to grow in value year after year if it is nurtured. That’s what branding is all about. Up & Coming Weekly will be a part of Hope Mills as long as we are invited into the community.
Thank you for reading Hope Mills’ community newspaper.