Each and every one of us who chooses the “Be an Original”® life in Salisbury/Rowan County has their own “10 Best” lists of what makes this place special. I realize that there cannot be one original “10 Best” reasons to choose to locate businesses here and to raise our families here, but surely all of us can agree on one. That’s “livability.” We have that in abundance.
I have been thinking about the word, “livability” and why it fits Salisbury/Rowan County so well, and those thoughts take me to generosity. People in this county are generous to their neighbors.
Step back in Salisbury-Rowan history to the Food Lion millionaires. They made millions by:
- First, helping out their neighbors who wanted to start a grocery chain and needed financial help.
- Secondly, by using much of the money that initial investment generated to help out the colleges, historic downtown renovations, people who needed homes, people with disabilities, the medical center, and on and on.
We enjoy that generosity to this day in downtown Salisbury with its blend of business, food, entertainment, and urban living. If you go to an event, or to your niece’s wedding at Salisbury Station, take a minute to enjoy the beauty of the station. Food Lion stock money helped pay for the renovation of the gorgeous Spanish Mission-style train station. (https://historicsalisburystation.com/)
If you go to a play at one of Salisbury’s three theaters, or to the Salisbury Symphony, Food Lion stock money is behind some of that culture. One of the theaters, The Norvell, (https://piedmontplayers.com/the-norvell-theater/) is named for the family of Lucile Proctor Norvell who called her Food Lion stock her “givin’ away money,” according to Our State magazine. Imagine a town this size enjoying its own Symphony (https://www.salisburysymphony.org/) for more than 50 years! Jimmy Hurley, whose family owned the newspaper, bought original Food Lion stock. The Hurley name graces the YMCA and Hurley Park. Hurley once told Fortune magazine: “Don’t ask for money; ask for Food Lion stock.”
Because of all that generosity, Salisbury and Rowan County thrive today, long after the glory day of textiles and tobacco, furniture and farming in the Piedmont were gone, and other Piedmont cities of similar size slowly faded, according to Our State. We shined through those hard times, and we are still shining. Those millionaires could have chosen to take their money and move on, but that’s not the kind of people they were. They were community-minded, and they stayed put.
So, it is fitting to give a thought to those people — and to emulate their generosity as we forge ahead. And we see that being done, particularly in Fred Stanback of the original Stanback Co. with his generosity to Catawba College, the Center for the Environment, parks, solar power, and other environmental issues. He was a college roommate of Warren Buffett and best man at his wedding. He, too, has “stayed put” and made life better for his fellow citizens. (https://centerfortheenvironment.org/)
Smith’s ‘Friends of Rowan’
Ronnie Smith, son of Wilson Smith, the co-founder of Food Lion, is still at it. He has established “Friends of Rowan,” which offers matching grants to people who donate to non-profits, and he is promoting a park on the Rowan County side of the Yadkin River that matches Davidson County’s Yadkin River Park at Linwood, with its historic Wil-Cox Bridge, now a walking trail out over the Yadkin. (https://www.yadkinriverkeeper.org/)
The Blanche and Julian Robertson Family Foundation, established by Julian Robertson of Tiger Management and founded in memory of his Salisbury parents, funds programs and causes that serve the city and encourage its communities to employ innovation, thoroughness and commitment when giving back. The Foundation has contributed more than $39 million to local organizations and agencies. (http://bjrff.org/)
And there are many others. They are the kind of people who don’t have to be named. They know who they are and why they help their fellowman.
So, #1 in this humble list, is the generosity of our neighbors.
Here are some other Top 10, in no particular order:
- We are in the center of the state, two hours from the Blue Ridge Mountains and four hours from beautiful beaches. We are within easy reach of quick interstate travel, international airports and the largest cities in the state. We are also half-way between New York and Florida.
- Medical Facilities. With the 2020 opening of the Wallace Cancer Institute as part of Rowan Regional Medical Center (https://www.novanthealth.org/), Salisbury-Rowan moved into state-of-the-art cancer treatment with medical oncology, radiation oncology, infusion, PET imaging, and integrative medicine under one roof. No more trips out of town for this treatment. Novant Foundation raised $24 million to make the institute a reality. Back to the Food Lion generosity: Dr. Glenn Ketner, who originally invested $1,000 in Food Lion stock, gave $17 million to the medical center.
- Our Diversity. We are ready to learn and embrace new ideas in a city that is 49 percent white/37 percent black, with a growing Hispanic community. Minority business owners, such as Mean Mug Coffee Co. owner Evelyn Medina, bring us new ideas and expand rapidly. (https://meanmugcoffeeco.com/)
- The Weather. I know, everybody talks about the weather, but it is worth noting that the National Climate Control Data Center (NOAA) calls our climate “ideal,” based on comfort and number of days of clear skies. We sometimes tend to take our beautiful days for granted but do yourself a favor: Go outside and enjoy!
- Educational Opportunities. I have a friend who says she never wants to live in a town without a college. Higher education improves everyone’s quality of life, just by being a part of the community and offering us chances to grow in new ways. We are blessed with four colleges — Catawba College, a liberal arts school; Livingstone College, associated with the AME Zion Church; Rowan Cabarrus Community College, with workforce training and an affordable route to transfer to a four-year college; and Hood Seminary, offering paths to the ministry.
- Water Resources. We are water-rich and that is no small thing. The Yadkin River makes water a given for us, and it is a blessing that other towns envy. High Rock Lake, located on the Yadkin River, is the second largest lake in the state, covering 15,180 acres with 360 miles of shoreline. We can take to the water anytime we want a quick getaway, enjoying water sports, from fishing to boating to paddle boarding to leisurely pontoon boat rides, as well as fine dining.
- Our Housing Market: We’re soaring. In 2020, our housing sales prices were up 24.9 percent over 2019, well above average prices in the Charlotte region at 13.6 percent. Realtors also reported high increases in 2020 in “closed house sales” at 37.4 percent, compared to an average of 11.9 percent in the Charlotte region. Dianne Greene, owner of Century 21 Town & Country Realty, attributed the great numbers to location, location, location.
- Our Cost of Living: We’re at 7.8 percent, lower than the national average. We are affordable, and we want to stay that way. It makes sense for our future.
- Our Parks. From the public to the private, these eclectic parks draw crowds of fun-seekers. Dan Nicholas Park, Lazy 5 Ranch, an exotic animal drive-through park; and Patterson Farm Market & Tours, an educational tour for children, consistently rank in the Top 25 Attractions by Carolina Field Trips There’s more: River Park, with its sandy beaches and waterfall; Kelsey Scott Park, Historic Gold Hill Park, Sloan Park, Dunn’s Mountain Park, Eagle Point Nature Preserve, the Fred and Alice Stanback Educational Forest and Nature Preserve, Ellis Park, Hurley Park, (https://www.visitsalisburync.com/) and now, the new Bell Tower Green in the heart of downtown Salisbury. The community is raising $12 million to transform an asphalt block into green space with more than 150 trees, a large water wall with a splash pad, flower beds, a children’s play area, a performance stage, and a flat green space for events. (https://belltowergreen.com/)
As you can see from this list, “generosity” is woven throughout. We would not be where we are today — in this opportune place to live, work and play — without the generosity of others that came before us and it continues today. It is important that we “pay it forward” and never let go of that spirit, taught to us by the hard-working, community-minded people who made the right choices.
“Home is the nicest word there is.” — Laura Ingolds Wilder, Little House on the Prairie