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Editorial: Bright spots amid gloom of 2008

Many of us aren’t sorry to see this year slink away. While it brought a historic election and record numbers of voters to the polls, it also delivered economic shocks that have left hundreds of thousands unemployed, in danger of losing their homes and struggling to pay bills and secure food and medical care. And the new year holds little promise of relief, in the short term, at least.
But before slamming the gate on 2008, we’d like to offer a reminder that all wasn’t doom and gloom in the year about to expire. There were some bright spots for our community ó several of them, in fact. Here’s a quick sampling of a few:
The economy: While credit markets tightened and companies cut back, the N.C. Research Campus opened in Kannapolis and began hiring people. Rowan-Cabarrus Community College began offering courses to help local job seekers prepare for high-tech careers. Wallace Commons moved ahead on the south side of Salisbury, with anchor store Kohl’s opening for business (and drawing hundreds of applicants to a job fair). Although Home Depot is on hold, Olive Garden is a go. In downtown Salisbury, important projects also gained ground. The West Fisher Street renovation was completed, and the city reviewed plans for revitalization of the Empire Hotel, which will provide much needed hotel accommodations. More downtown facelifts continued on South Main Street, including Pottery 101 and shops being renovated near the Stitchin’ Post. The downturn is taking a toll, but it’s heartening to see businesses bucking the trend.
Community generosity: Where to start? Thanks to a lot of contributors, the Post’s Christmas Happiness fund once again covered all the families who applied to the Department of Social Services for Christmas help. The Salvation Army got all its angels adopted, eventually. While the United Way didn’t reach its fund-raising goal, it came within a few percentage points, a notable achievement in a year when many other United Ways fell short by much greater margins. Rowan Helping Ministries took in $100,000 through the Pass the Plate fundraiser and also expanded with a branch in Mt. Ulla. And while merger stories dominated the hospital news, Rowan Regional Medical Center capped off a six-year capital campaign, surpassing its $25 million goal by more than $1 million.
Local infrastructure projects: Replacement of the I-85 bridges over the Yadkin River is still on everyone’s wish list. However, 2008 saw construction begin on the final phase of the U.S. 70 reconfiguration. That’s the good news; the bad news is that construction isn’t expected to be completed on the section extending westward to the county line until August 2011. And while a new county jail hasn’t moved past the palavering stage, school officials have zeroed in on the former Winn-Dixie building on Jake Alexander Boulevard for a new office building. Meanwhile, the city of Salisbury approved the launch of its fiber-optic cable utility, with construction on the “Fiber to Home” project scheduled to start early in the new year.
The environment: The drought is finally over, which is good news for area farmers (remember last winter’s hay shortages?) and the Yadkin River. The Yadkin received more good news with the hiring of its first riverkeeper. Two of the community’s most stalwart environmental champions, Fred and Alice Stanback, won the North Carolina Award for their efforts to help preserve the state’s scenic vistas and natural resources.
Finally, if you’re looking for something to cheer about, there’s always the world of sports. Carson High won its first football game. The West Rowan Falcons won a state football championship, while the Salisbury High girls tennis team also took home a state title this year. And down at Bank of America Stadium, everything is Jake again with the Panthers, who have a healthy quarterback and are playoff bound.
Go Panthers ó and go, 2008.

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