We’re All Americans: What makes Davie County special

Published 1:58 pm Tuesday, May 2, 2023

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Everyone who lives in Davie County knows what a special place it is.

Soon, other communities around the country will know it as well.

Last month, the National Civic League selected Davie County as a finalist for this year’s All-America City Award, competing against 19 other communities in Denver, Color. June 9-11.

This year’s theme is “Creating Thriving Communities through Youth Engagement.” The 2023 award seeks communities that are breaking down barriers to youth participation and enacting programs that will improve the quality of life for youth.

Davie’s application focuses on youth programs that build the civic capacity, increase job readiness and employment and provide leadership opportunities.

This is the first in a series of articles sharing the sections of Davie’s application.

“While the application was compiled by a team of county and municipal representatives and community leaders, the story is about all of us,” said Jeanna Baxter White, owner of Word Master Media Group and a member of the committee. “As you read, you will revel in Davie County’s accomplishments and learn more about innovative programs in your own backyard. Take a bow Davie County, you have much to be proud of.

The application requires Davie to focus on the last ten years of progress and development, describing how that progress has benefited residents. It has to describe how the community addresses challenges and plans for the future; and has to provide the history and background to set the stage for the rest of the application.

In 2013, Davie County, like many other communities, was coming out of the great recession. Unlike other communities, leaders decided to transition from an outlying bedroom community to a jobs-focused destination that could attract industry and young professionals.

That December, the Davie County Economic Development Commission launched the “Together We Are Davie” campaign, an economic growth initiative to create more than 1,200 jobs and to raise $100 million in new corporate investments by 2018. The community was challenged to meet a capital fundraising goal of $1 million. Its success relied upon coordinating efforts between education, industry, technology, and government. It also meant breaking down some of the governmental silos that existed within the community to become more effective and efficient.

“The results were extraordinary,” the committee wrote.

• Davie led the state in job creation from 2013-2017 with 23 percent growth, while North Carolina averaged 8.5 percent;

• created more than 1,200 jobs;

• assisted local companies with acquiring $3.6 million in state/federal grants;

• attracted private investment of more than $111 million;

• attracted over 1,000,000 square feet of new spec industrial buildings;

• reduced the unemployment rate from 13% to 3%.

Here is more from the committee’s application.

“This team approach to addressing community economic development needs set the stage for discussions that would lead to the development of the 2017 Bermuda Run Comprehensive Plan, 2018 Davie County Strategic Plan, and 2019 Mocksville Comprehensive Plan. Each of these plans included an emphasis on establishing mutually beneficial relationships to deliver services in the most efficient and cost-effective manner.

“Public engagement has helped direct the use of the resources freed up through tax base growth and more efficient partnerships toward community priorities like education, quality of life, mental health, and opioid abuse.

“Over the last seven years, our community has been breaking down municipal and county silos to create cost-saving partnerships including:

• sharing costs of economic development, planning & zoning, inspections;   

• partnering on a $52M regional water treatment plant instead of two plants;     

• closing an outdated sewer plant and sending flow to a regional partner;                      

• building a new, technologically advanced high school;                                                                                 

• transforming the old high school complex into a community park; and

• consolidating law enforcement services from three agencies to one.

“Our focus on the strategic planning process has helped us more effectively engage our community in setting priorities. Our emphasis on economic development, job creation, and mutually beneficial community partnerships has provided fertile ground for the youth programs showcased later in our application.”

Next week’s article will focus on community civic strength: a shared vision and values, culture of engaged residents, inclusive community leadership, diversity and equity, authentic communications, and collaborative institutions.