Fayetteville/Cumberland County welcomes new industry, congratulates hometown utility PWC

03 01 PWC FHUIn spite of COVID-19 and Gov. Roy Cooper’s expansion to Phase 2.5, Fayetteville Mayor Mitch Colvin and I had an in-depth conversation last week about the many opportunities (and challenges) facing our community.

We both agreed we had much to be thankful for and even more to look forward to in the near future. Despite COVID-19, Market House debates and Proud Boy infiltrators, there are good things happening in Fayetteville and Cumberland County.

Recently, the Fayetteville Cumberland County Economic Development Corporation, under the leadership of CEO Robert Van Geons, announced that Dansons, a manufacturer of BBQ pellet grills and related equipment selected Fayetteville as their newest location for a distribution and customer service call center.

The facility will be located on Technology Drive and will create an estimated 118 full-time jobs for our community as well as a $10 million investment with growth potential two and a half times that. This is great news! Kudo’s to Mr. Van Geons, for shepherding this project through by working closely with the North Carolina Department of Commerce and the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina.

Other key partners assisted in the recruiting and coordinating efforts by securing $400,000 from North Carolina’s “One NC Grant” and, a $175,000 job creation grant from our Cumberland County Commissioners.

In addition, the North Carolina Community College System provided a $91,000 training grant which will be managed by Fayetteville Technical Community College. This is a near perfect example that “it takes a village” to develop and secure successful economic development projects. It also takes dedicated leadership, keen minds and vision for what we want Fayetteville and Cumberland County to be for future generations.

Another recent example of leadership and vision was the action taken by the management team of our hometown utility PWC with its responsive customer service and quick reaction in assisting local customers dealing with the financial hardships created by the pandemic.

In March Gov. Cooper issued an executive order governing billing and utility cutoff procedures statewide. On July 29 these restrictions on billing and disconnects were lifted making normal utility usage payments due. Anticipating the difficulty and hardships some customers would experience in paying their bills, PWC automatically implemented special payment terms on past due balances extending payments over a six month period for all their customers. This was no small task since it affected nearly 30,000 local PWC customers and represented millions of dollars in past
due fees.

In addition, PWC has made customer service representatives available to counsel and direct those customers who still have difficulty with their payments to local resources and agencies for assistance. By being proactive and coming to the aid of local residents, PWC demonstrates the kind of dedication, commitment, talent, business leadership and vision that builds and maintains prosperous communities. It is doubtful that many utility companies across the country operate or respond to their customers like Fayetteville’s hometown utility.

I admit these are crazy times for everyone. COVID-19 and this annoying pandemic won’t last forever. Neither will the masks! No doubt this community has the resources, people and talent to attract organizations and great industries like Dansons. By working together (city, county, media), communicating with one another, sharing ideas, visions, and encouraging dynamic leadership, Fayetteville can be one of North Carolina’s greatest cities. Agree? Thank you for reading Up & Coming Weekly.


The power of a melody

16 N1403P46004HMusic. It can transport us to forgotten places or treat us to the opportunity to sit with someone who's long since left this world.

Can you remember the song that played the day you had your first real kiss or as you pulled in the driveway after your parents first let you take the car out on your own?

During a visit a few years back, my wife and I drove my parents to the mountains of western North Carolina to enjoy the colorful beauty of the fall.

In her latter years, my mother would often complain about music — mostly the volume, but I decided to try something.

As we were driving, I turned on the satellite radio to channel 4, which, at the time, played top hits and big band favorites from the 1940s.

To my surprise, my mother sat with a quiet smile on her face, and my step dad sang along with nearly every song that played.

From the melancholy sentiment of "You'll Never Know" from Vera Lynn, to lyrically twisted novelty classics like “Mairzy Doats,” the audience in the back seat seemed content to ride and reminisce.

Whether providing an escape or connecting us more intensely to someone we're holding close, music is powerful.

It's common as we honor a nation, celebrate a birthday, express adoration for someone we love or sing praises in worship to the very God who created us all.

One of the greatest joys we have in radio is finding songs to connect with people throughout any given day.

We owe much to the artists and writers who allow us the use of their deepest thoughts backed by melodies that stick in people's heads as they turn it up and sing along.

In the process of reviewing new music just before Thanksgiving, I was listening to a song called “Run to the Father” from Cory Asbury. With the Christmas holiday music season upon us, I knew the song would be a hit, but likely wouldn't start airing for another five or six weeks.

I paused as the lyrics reminded me that I wasn't alone and that I was never meant to carry the weight of the world and its problems by myself.

I was encouraged to take the burden of my heartache, my struggles and my pain to God, who created us all.

The song arrived the morning after the single most devastating event in the life of my family. Our oldest son, Chris, had been murdered the afternoon before.

I was reviewing music after a mostly sleepless night because I didn't know what else to do.

And every time I hear that song, I'm taken back to that moment, where a simple song from a barely known artist touched me in a way nothing else could.

I didn't want it to be 'my song', but it is.

Rep. Hudson hosts discussion with EPA, community members

03 EPA RoundtableFrom Cabarrus County to Cumberland County, our region is a special place with unique challenges and opportunities. This week, I was honored to welcome two of President Donald Trump’s cabinet officials to highlight some of these important issues for our community and state.

On Tuesday, I invited Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler to come to Fayetteville to discuss ways we are addressing PFAS chemicals like GenX in our water. When it comes to GenX, people in our community are angry, they are afraid, and we want answers. I first invited the EPA to Fayetteville in 2018 so they could hear directly from our community on this issue. This week’s bipartisan roundtable discussion continued that dialogue and allowed our local representatives to engage directly with the EPA Administrator.

I urged the EPA to complete a final toxicity assessment of GenX and discussed my most recent efforts to combat PFAS chemicals, including GenX, through two amendments I secured in the latest appropriations bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives. These amendments would study the relationship between PFAS exposure and COVID-19, and provide $2.4 million for the EPA to develop regulations to control discharge of PFAS in surface waters.

Also at the roundtable, Administrator Wheeler announced the new Innovative Ways to Destroy PFAS Challenge, a partnership between federal and states agencies seeking detailed plans for a non-incineration method to destroy PFAS in firefighting foam. I am happy to see the EPA pursuing this initiative as part of the PFAS Action Plan — the most comprehensive cross-agency plan ever to address an emerging chemical of concern. It was great to have Administrator Wheeler in Fayetteville to discuss how we can continue to combat GenX and clean up the Cape Fear River.

Also last week I invited HUD Secretary Ben Carson, a champion of efforts to make housing more affordable, to Kannapolis to talk about how we can improve housing in our community. Secretary Carson leads the Trump Administration’s White House Council of Eliminating Barriers to Affordable Housing, which was created by an executive order signed by President Trump to engage with state, local, and tribal leaders across the country to identify and remove obstacles that impede production of affordable homes. I also discussed legislation I am working on to modernize the low-income housing tax credit to make it more flexible and easier to use.

Secretary Carson has also done a lot of work on Opportunity Zones, a program I supported in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. North Carolina has 252 approved Opportunity Zones, with 18 of them right here in our region. These zones incentivize economic growth in economically distressed communities, with an expected $100 billion in investment throughout the country.

I sincerely appreciate both Administrator Wheeler and Secretary Carson making the time to visit our community at my invitation. I hope these visits will continue the great partnerships I have forged with the Trump Administration to tackle issues affecting our communities and I look forward to continuing to work together.

Picture: Rep. Hudson hosts a roundtable in Fayetteville with EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler and members of the community.

Spy and statesman freedom fighter

04 Galloway AbrahamWhether Democrat Yvonne Holley or Republican Mark Robinson wins the 2020 race for lieutenant governor, North Carolinians will be electing the first African American candidate to that post.

But the victor won’t be the first Black North Carolinian elected to a Council of State office. That was Ralph Campbell, the longtime Raleigh city councilman elected state auditor in 1992. Even before that, Henry Frye became the first Black member of the North Carolina Supreme Court, having been appointed in 1983 and then elected statewide in 1984.

If you follow state politics closely, you already know all that. But do you know the name of the first African-American to appear on North Carolina’s statewide ballot — and win?

It’s a bit of a trick question, I admit, because the election I’m talking about wasn’t, strictly speaking, for public office. The answer is Abraham Galloway, whom voters chose as one of North Carolina’s presidential electors in 1868.
Galloway is one of the most intriguing figures in the history of our state — and another North Carolinian who, in my opinion, deserves to be honored with multiple statues and monuments.

Born a slave in what is now Southport, Galloway became a skilled brick mason and joined a thriving community of Black craftsmen, sailors, and activists in antebellum Wilmington. He escaped to freedom in 1857 in the cargo hold of a schooner bound for Philadelphia. Making his way via the Underground Railroad to Canada, Galloway soon became an active abolitionist.

When the Civil War broke out in 1861, Abraham Galloway performed another brave act: he returned to the South to work as a spy, and later as a recruiter, for the Union Army. In his 2012 book “The Fire of Freedom: Abraham Galloway & The Slaves’ Civil War” historian David Cecelski does a masterful job of relating Galloway’s exploits during the war — or, at least, the exploits for which there is a historical record, as Galloway was himself illiterate and narrated only some of his experiences to others after the fact.

Cecelski uses a particularly dramatic scene to kick off the book. A New England abolitionist and federal agent named Edward Kinsley arrives in New Bern in 1863 with a mission to recruit African Americans into the Union Army. It soon becomes clear, however, that he’ll have no success unless he bargains successfully with Galloway, already a leader of the local Black community.

Galloway demands equal pay and fair treatment for Black soldiers, as well as a pledge that the Union will fight for abolition, not just to reassemble the Union. Only after Kinsley agrees do Black recruits step forward — first in the hundreds, eventually in the thousands.

After the war, Abraham Galloway helped organize the new Republican Party in North Carolina, played a key role at the 1868 convention that drafted a new state constitution, and won election to the North Carolina Senate several months later, all the while “defying nightriders and assassins,” as Cecelski put it.

During his brief but momentous political career — Galloway died abruptly of natural cases in 1870 at the age of 33 — he not only championed the rights of Black North Carolinians but also fought for women’s suffrage and educational opportunity. If you’re a progressive, you’ll appreciate Galloway’s advocacy of new labor laws. If you’re a conservative, you’ll appreciate his advocacy of gun rights and deep suspicion of the state-subsidized railroad company.

While unyielding in his quest for justice, Galloway sought to build bridges and conciliate former adversaries whenever possible. Picked to give the opening address at the founding convention of the state GOP in 1867, he insisted he spoke as “neither Republican Black man nor Republican white man” but for the party as a whole. “A man may be a Dutchman or an Irishman, a Yankee or a Southerner, and I tell you I will give him a hearty shake and a warm welcome upon the Republican platform,” he said.

Whatever your politics, Abraham Galloway can and should be one of your heroes.

Picture: Abraham Galloway

Jeff Thompson: Celebrating 50 years

02 Jeff Pub PenWe seldom get to acknowledge a journalistic colleague that has come to mean so much to our organization and to the entire Fayetteville community. This is why we have chosen to recognize Jeff Thompson, a dedicated and talented news media professional whose journalistic talents and expertise have touched every aspect of the media industry. Truly, Jeff has forged his way through decades of an ever-changing media landscape, forcing him to recast and reinvent himself umpteen times to succeed in the highly competitive and cutthroat industry of radio news broadcasting. Fifty years! Jeff went from spinning records at Steve’s Tower in the Sky as a rock n roll disc jockey in the 70s to mastering almost every aspect of media. Radio, TV, and yes, in his later years, even daily and weekly newspapers.

Margaret Dickson, Up & Coming Weekly’s senior contributing writer and one of Jeff Thompson’s biggest fans has written a wonderful and heartfelt feature introducing our readers to Jeff and honoring him for his 50+ year career in the media industry. To infer that Jeff’s style of news reporting was “old school” would be an understatement compared to the coverage we have today. For decades, as WFNC’s news director, Jeff would tackle the most critical, spirited and controversial issues facing Fayetteville, Cumberland County and North Carolina. However, the difference between then and now was Jeff meticulously made sure the subject matter was covered fairly and accurately. If Jeff reported it, you could rest assured you had the whole story. This was Jeff Thompson’s legacy.

Full disclosure: The Up & Coming Weekly newspaper is celebrating its 25th year serving Fayetteville, Fort Bragg and Cumberland County. Our mission in January 1996 was the same as it is in 2020 — to showcase, accentuate and promote the assets and amenities that make the Fayetteville area a great place to live, work and play. In other words, if something was good for the Fayetteville community, we were going to support it, write about it and promote it. If something was not good for Fayetteville and we perceived it as detrimental to the community, we were going to take a stand against it. By 1998, our biweekly publication had been accepted and welcomed by the community, and it successfully took root — especially with the neglected cultural arts community. To this, the daily newspaper, The Fayetteville Observer, adamantly objected. Admittedly, as hard as I tried, I was no match for the multimillion-dollar publishing company and resolved that I was defeated.

So, in a final act of defiance, I contacted Jeff Thompson, who at the time was news director of WFNC — Fayetteville’s local and most trusted voice in news media — and Margaret Highsmith Dickson, who at the time was at the helm of the WFNC editorial board. The intrepid request I made to them when we met for lunch, and to which they reluctantly agreed, is why Up & Coming Weekly exists today.

I asked if I could appear exclusively on Thompson’s radio show the day we published an explanation as to why we were being forced out of business, along with an article on The Fayetteville Observer’s surreptitious tactics used to undermine our newspaper to eliminate competition and maintain its media monopoly — to the detriment of local businesses, organizations and community agencies. Jeff and Margaret allowed us to tell our story on the air to the adamant and arrogant denial of Fayetteville Observer management.

But it was too late. Jeff Thompson and WFNC’s local audience, at that time, was the heart and soul of the Fayetteville community. Despite The Fayetteville Observer denials, Fayetteville residents and businesses were aware of the tactics and knew the allegations had substance. The community rallied in support of our newspaper. Twenty-five years later, and without changing our mission or mandate, we are extremely proud to include both Jeff Thompson, as our senior news reporter, and Margaret Dickson, as our senior and longest-running contributing writer at over 19 years, as part of the Up & Coming Weekly family. Both have made significant contributions to the success of our organization.

Enjoy Margaret’s feature about Jeff Thompson, as she introduces you to one of her dearest friends and mentors. Continue to follow them both each week in Up & Coming Weekly. Neither has shown any sign of slowing down any time soon.
Thank you for reading Up & Coming Weekly. Please join our staff and me in congratulating Jeff Thompson for his first 50 years in media and his service to the Fayetteville community.

Pictured: Jeff Thompson

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