Editorial: Things for Rowan to be thankful for this year

Published 12:00 am Sunday, November 21, 2021

With Thanksgiving Day on Thursday, here are some things to be thankful for in Salisbury, Rowan County and Kannapolis:

• Bell Tower Green

This is an easy one. The park has brought a beautiful landscape to downtown and provided a valuable resource for play and leisure. It regularly attracts visitors of all ages and people of all backgrounds. The park is a defining landmark for Salisbury, and it’s provided exactly what its creators hoped in just a short time — “the place where our community gathers to celebrate, connect, and engage.”

It’s now up to city government and local residents to take care of the park for future generations.

• A much faster pace of economic development in 2021 than any time in recent memory

Census data show Rowan County’s population grew by 6% in the previous decade — 2010 to 2020. But the pace of development so far makes it likely growth will be greater in the current decade. From Rockwell to western Rowan County, housing developments are sprouting at a fast pace.

Job growth seems to be following the population. The announcement in 2019 that Chewy.com would open up a fulfillment center was unprecedented — more than 1,200 jobs and tens of millions of dollars in investment. China Grove may be on the cusp of another Chewy-size development. County commissioners and the China Grove Town Council have approved tax incentives for a project that’s promising 1,000 jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in new investment. The Rowan County Economic Development Council also says the jobs are likely to have an average wage at or above the $44,000 the average for the area.

With an increasing population and growing economy, local governments will have more tax dollars to fund schools and public services.

• The start of Minor League Baseball at Atrium Health Ballpark in Kannapolis

Downtown Kannapolis’ redevelopment was a success even before 2,487 fans filed into Atrium Health Ballpark for the first game, but the Cannon Ballers season was a cornerstone for development. So, it mattered that baseball got underway in the redeveloped downtown.

The move from an I-85-adjacent stadium to downtown made the Minor League Baseball experience more enjoyable in Kannapolis, provided a unique venue for other events and completed the downtown experience. As developers complete their vision, downtown Kannapolis will only get better.

• The impressive teamwork and coordination required for mass vaccination clinics at West End Plaza

When federal authorities OK’d COVID-19 vaccines for emergency use, a consortium of local government agencies collaborated to make the former Salisbury Mall’s parking lot a mass vaccination site. Whether it was the county’s information technology staff, the Health Department, Emergency Services or the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office, the clinics required a small army of people. There were hiccups at the start, with long lines of cars stretching down Statesville Boulevard, but workers created a well-oiled machine with help from the city of Salisbury’s Traffic Engineering Department.

• The return of some major community events after a COVID-induced hiatus

The community’s calendar wasn’t as full as a pre-pandemic year, but there were some local staples, including the Faith Fourth of July, Rowan County Fair, Farmers Day in China Grove and Autumn Jubilee. This week, Salisbury and southern Rowan County’s Christmas parades will join the list. Hopefully, the Cheerwine Festival and Pops at the Post can make a return in 2022.

• The perseverance of small businesses through tough pandemic times

After shutdowns, capacity limitations and stay-at-home orders in 2020, businesses fought to return to normal this year. While some were victims of the pandemic and others are still trying to return to pre-pandemic revenue, the community should be grateful that so many of the area’s institutions survived and that new endeavors started.

• State championships at local high schools in seasons changed by COVID-19.

The Carson High School girls won a basketball championship. Salisbury High won a football championship. Salisbury High’s Knorr twins won state championships in swimming. South Rowan’s Jacob Cox and East’s Oren Bost took home wrestling championships, too.

Like many close-knit communities, high school sports often find themselves at the epicenter of local life in Salisbury and Rowan County. Even those who don’t have a direct tie to local high schools should be thankful for excellence among the area’s young athletes.