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Rowan County will host Growing Rowan community forum on June 23

By Josh Bergeron

josh.bergeron@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — Rowan County leaders will have a community meeting next month to mark the start of an effort known as Growing Rowan, and they’re looking for community involvement.

Organized by county commissioners Chairman Greg Edds, Growing Rowan will ask local residents to split into groups and develop strategies to improve a specific area of the community. Initially, Edds said, Growing Rowan will start with nine focus areas. When a group wraps up its work in a focus area, its members might select a new topic to work on, he said.

The official start of Growing Rowan will be June 23 with a community forum at West End Plaza. It will start at 8:30 a.m. and end at 12:30 p.m., according to the group’s website. Participants will learn more about the nine focus areas and have an opportunity to join one group. The forum is free and open to the public.

Three speakers will be featured: Donnie Charleston, economic policy director from the Institute for Emerging Issues; Steve Chandler, who runs the company Chandler Thinks and worked on Rowan County’s recent rebranding; and Rod Crider, the incoming president of RowanWorks Economic Development.

Edds described the outline of Growing Rowan in a column published on the front page of the Salisbury Post’s Insight section on Sunday. He also spoke about the project in an interview.

“The whole purpose of this is going to be community involvement,” he said. “We don’t have any preconceived recipes or answers to any of the nine areas. We simply defined the areas, and it’s up to the community to make recommendations.”

The initial nine focus areas will be: workforce development; entrepreneurship and innovation; target clusters; education; community infrastructure; next-generation philanthropy; branding; business climate; and telling our story.

“I would see potentially dozens and dozens of recommendations,” he said. “For example, business climate, what are the 100 things that our community needs to do from a structural standpoint?”

On the website established for the project, Growing Rowan is defined as “an initiative created by a group of forward-thinking local leaders who believe it is time for Rowan County to create and implement a new vision — one that promotes an aggressive, dynamic and growing economy and one that secures a positive future for all of our citizens.”

Edds said he and commissioners Vice Chairman Jim Greene started the process of creating the Growing Rowan group, but neither will permanently supervise it.

“This needs to be run by private-sector folks,” Edds said. “It needs to survive personalities and elections.”

Growing Rowan’s roots date back before the 2014 county commissioners election. More recently, Edds began attending meetings for the Charlotte region’s Global Vision Leaders Group. In 2016, Edds and other community leaders — about 15 people — began meeting at 7:30 a.m. Fridays to talk about community matters.

The months-long effort by Edds and Greene to get every town to approve a Rowan County Declaration of Interdependence emerged out of the local group.

The upcoming community forum will be a continuation of those efforts. An agenda published on Growing Rowan’s website shows that the guest speakers will talk at the start of the meeting. After a second break, participants will be able to select a focus area.

For more information about the Growing Rowan project, visit growingrowan.com. To reserve a seat for the forum, visit the website, search for Growing Rowan on Facebook or call 704-633-4221.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.

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