Editorial: All-America opportunity

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Salisbury is one of 20 finalists for the All-America City Award, with 10 winners to be named this summer. Those are good odds. First, though, organizers need the public’s help to get the city’s delegation to the competition in Colorado and to generate buzz about the city’s effort.

Some history might help here. When Salisbury entered the All-America City competition in 1961, the community was trying to rebound from the shutdown of Spencer Shops, which at one time employed more than 1,500 people. The closing hurt the community’s psyche as well as citizens’ wallets.

Business and civic leaders stepped up to develop a program of action and to compete for All-America City designation. They believed winning the award would raise Salisbury’s profile, boost civic pride and spur the economy. By all accounts, they were right. Salisbury was still touting its All-America status well into the 1970s.

Salisbury needs that boost again. The demise of textiles, the devastation of the recession and the growth of poverty have brought the city to a crossroads. As Linda McElroy, the city’s communications director, puts it, the city has a choice just as it did nearly 55 years ago: We can let negative forces drain the life out of Salisbury, or use them to stimulate action and put an accent on progress.

Mayor Karen Alexander has spearheaded the 2016 effort with enthusiastic support from City Council and staff, the Chamber of Commerce and others. Salisbury has always overcome adversity and found a way to help people when they need it. Now we need to help our city.

This year’s competition focuses on making sure all children are healthy and supported — an area in which Salisbury excels. Dozens of groups are pitching in to help children build a good future. Salisbury is accenting three initiatives: The Norvell Theater, Knox Middle School’s co-principals and Fit for Motion, a collaboration between Novant and the YMCA to fight childhood obesity.

To deliver the message about these programs, the city is sending a delegation of children and adults to the final competition in Denver, Colo. Some $11,321 has been raised toward the $30,000 needed to get them there and pay for their stay. Businesses and individuals need to pitch in and fill the gap.

“This is a very powerful economic development tool … a way to brand the community,” F&M President Steve Fisher said Tuesday. “It will also bring business to this community.”

You can help support the Salisbury delegation All checks should be made payable to: Salisbury All-America City and mailed to the Rowan County Chamber of Commerce, P.O. Box 559, Salisbury, NC, 28145-0559.

Here’s where the buzz comes in. If you use Facebook or Twitter, talk up Salisbury’s application, with these hashtags: #AAC16 #AllAmericaCity #Salisbury2AAC.

Speak up and step up for your city. This is a powerful opportunity for all of us.