5 to Watch in ’16: The People. The Places. The Way of Life.

5toWatch (2)
1tallMichelle Patterson is chairman of the Rowan County Re-Branding Task Force. As Director of Fun for Patterson Farm Market & Tours, Patterson has grown the family farm into a destination for school tours, family weekends and special events. The next creative idea is always just around the corner for her. Some 25,000 visit the farm yearly. Now, after experience on the Salisbury-Rowan Convention and Visitors’ Bureau, Patterson has taken on chairmanship of the county-wide rebranding effort. A logo is expected by spring. With a $500,000 budget, this new county identity will affect us for years to come.


2tallJason Walser spent 10 years leading the LandTrust for Central North Carolina before making the tough decision to leave in 2014. He has found his new challenge as a consultant on the revitalization of the West End community of Salisbury, funded by the Blanche and Julian Robertson Foundation. A Purpose Built Communities approach is the goal. Julian Robertson Jr., who finances the foundation in memory of his parents, is one of the founders of Purpose Built Communities, which works to break the cycle of intergenerational poverty. There is opportunity here to change the face of the city.


3Darrell Hinnant: How many people do you know who have bought a city? Hinnant, mayor of Kannapolis, spearheaded the efforts for Kannapolis to buy 84 parcels from David Murdock to control the town’s destiny. One third of that city is in Rowan County. With the deal finalized this fall, revitalization begins in earnest. Hinnant pledges to bring 10,000 jobs to the area, benefiting Rowan and Cabarrus counties. Watch the town of Kannapolis re-invent itself.


4West End Plaza: Rowan County Commissioners Chairman Greg Edds envisions making the former Salisbury Mall, owned by the county and now known as West End Plaza, a hub of tourism. The sale of beer and wine has been approved for rentals at the JC Penney space. The plan is to turn the former Belk building into a convention center. Rowan Museum has been asked to consider a military museum display in one of the spaces. After much controversy, the county is moving ahead with renovations. Government offices? Tourist attractions? It all bears watching …


5Fibrant: Salisbury officials said this year that all the pieces are in place to take Fibrant, the city’s highspeed broadband network, to the next level and start using it aggressively to recruit the businesses of tomorrow. Robert Van Geons of Rowan WORKS, says that business ideas that haven’t even been thought of yet are what Salisbury should be preparing for. He also says that Fibrant is about social justice – it can directly impact education and poverty in a community. Salisbury has been told to tell its “Gig City” story to the world.