Group looks toward social, economic development for East Spencer

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 29, 2016

By Rebecca Rider

SALISBURY — Tuesday, a group of people from all walks of life gathered to bandage the hurts of East Spencer. The brainstorm session focused on socioeconomic development in the town, which has no school, community center, bank, grocery store or major businesses.

It was hosted by Muhammad Business Solutions, a company belonging to Kenneth Muhammad El, formerly Kenneth Fox. Muhammad El also serves as the chair of the Paul L. Dunbar group, a nonprofit that, for the past year, has been advocating for a charter school to be placed in East Spencer.

Muhammad El said attendees came from Charlotte, Greensboro, Hickory and Salisbury, and he hoped they would consider expanding their businesses and services in East Spencer.

Muhammad El touted the town’s USDA designation as a rural community as a reason to invest in the town.

Expanding operations to the town could be cheap and affordable due to grant opportunities, he said. Muhammad El offered the services of his business and the Dunbar group in submitting business plans and grant applications to the USDA.

Businesses may prefer expanding in East Spencer, because they wouldn’t encounter the same resistance to expansion that can occur in a larger city, organizers said. And it would be a social investment, they said.

Those who attended the three-hour summit heard from speakers with the Universal Peace Federation, out of Apex, the City Farm Project, out of Hickory, and Downtown Salisbury, Inc. Members of the Dunbar group also spoke about the proposed Sankofa Community Center, which would house the hoped-for charter school and provide of wrap-around services to the greater East Spencer community.

According to U.S. Census data, the median household income for East Spencer is approximately $15,000 a year, and 58 percent of the population lives below the federal poverty line.

The group practiced mind mapping their passions and areas of expertise, and discussed solutions to socioeconomic problems that plagued the town.

“All the things you have in your community, they should have in their community as well,” Muhammad El told guests.

Table discussions examined the possibility of starting a capital campaign, providing resources and support to business start-ups, encouraging annual activities to bring the town together, having local churches sponsor health clinics or after-school programs and starting up a community co-op.

It was an exercise, Muhammad El said, in what “could be.”

“If we don’t educate each other and inspire each other, we’re not going anywhere,” he said.

In the next few weeks, he hopes one of those groups will draw up a business plan, and he can submit a request for funding. Wednesday’s gathering is the first of what Muhammad El said will be many meetings.

Contact reporter Rebecca Rider at 704-797-4264.