Eight Local Leaders Share What They see in Chatham’s Future

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I am very optimistic that Chatham County has a very bright future. To understand my optimism, one would have to take a quick trip back into our history. Over the 50 years, we have progressed tremendously in welcoming people of diverse cultural backgrounds to participate in the political process and the business and corporate community. I would be the first to admit that this has not always been the case. As a former County Commissioner, I have seen the debates over the years involving ‘newcomers versus old Chatham natives,’ ‘pro- versus anti-development,’ ‘conservationist versus big business,’ and the list goes on.

To move forward positively, I think we need to acknowledge that we have not done everything right. No county has. For many years, we have not adequately recognized our minority populations historically or their contributions. The African American and Latino communities, in the past, have not been invited to the table to sit and make decisions directly affecting our county. But, in recent years, minority involvement is changing significantly. We have recently elected the first Latino to the board of commissioners.” – Carl E. Thompson Sr., senior pastor, Word of Life Christian Outreach Center; co-chair of Chatham 250

Creativity. In Chatham, there’s such a magical combination of independent thinking and also honest collaboration. I believe Chatham can create the coolest approaches to everything from how our downtowns look, to how we take care of our farmland, to how we integrate technology, to how we treat one another. Of course, I’d love to see art popping up in fields and on the sides of buildings from Moncure to Bennett, and I’d love to see folks crowding around to hear live music and see live dance and soak in live theater.” – Cheryl Chamblee, executive director, Chatham Arts Council

This once historical landmark is lastly becoming one of the most innovative business areas in the state’s region. The modernity of the county is formed by [a] younger generation. Now seasoned with diversity, this new generation shares hope and is establishing a conglomerate of progress. It is most important that the line of communication is strengthened within the generation of cultures to ensure the genuine continuity of education to our offspring. We are to press the historical lineage into the past and lift the future focus upon success and servitude to promote further growth of our beloved homeland.” – Lendy A. Cerna Carias, teacher assistant, Siler City Elementary School; co-chair of Chatham 250

There are a few things we know for certain. First, our population will continue to increase. More houses will be built and more businesses will relocate here. Second, because of national and local trends, our population will be older. Finally, our population as a whole will become more diverse.

Chatham County leaders have long recognized and planned for these ‘certainties.’ After much public input, county commissioners adopted a comprehensive plan in 2017 that guides decision-making. The Chatham County Council on Aging completed its own strategic plan and is always [making] sure we can address the needs of the county’s older adults. I am hopeful the county will be able to address these trends in ways that preserve what we are at our core. … If I could wish anything for our future, it is that we appreciate what we have and make sure the growth and change ahead of us does not destroy what’s so great about living here – our tolerance of differences, our natural resources, our farms and our small-town, friendly way of being.

With Chatham 250, I see a way to remind ourselves anew of the incredible place we live in. There is enough room in our 707 square miles for all of us who call Chatham home, both now and in the future.” – Renee Paschal, board member, Chatham County Council on Aging; co-chair of Chatham 250

I expect the development of Chatham Park to lead the way for Chatham County’s [transformation] from a bedroom community to a robust and integral part of the Triangle economy. Chatham Park will attract major employers within the development, which will also serve as a magnet for attracting other development and businesses nearby. This increase in commercial taxpayers will help Chatham’s tax base to be less dependent upon residential taxpayers, which will allow for increased funding for schools, broadband, parks and other desired quality-of-life improvements.” – Chris Ehrenfeld, owner, Bold Construction

The pandemic will be over, and we will be stronger for having learned to adapt. Infrastructure investments will ensure higher quality water, sewer and broadband are available countywide. Our downtown municipalities will be populated with small businesses and see a resurgence in economic vitality while preserving their historic charm. Education opportunities will offer expanded career path options, new workforce development training and increased access. Health care services will continue to improve, offering residents complete in-county services across all age groups. Recreation and cultural attractions will further develop, providing residents more options for both physical and intellectual development. Careful stewardship of our county’s resources will provide continued quality of life and preserve the natural beauty we value today.” – Doug Emmons, treasurer, Main Street Pittsboro; past board chair, Chatham Economic Development Corporation

As we celebrate 250 years, the work of so many community leaders has positioned the county for significant success in the coming years. The opportunity to build on the current regional momentum in the life science sector is tremendous. The Triangle Innovation Point business park in Moncure will position the county for success in this high growth knowledge industry.

The sustained efforts and investment at the Chatham-Siler City Advanced Manufacturing Site puts the western part of the county in an excellent position to be a key part of the regional marketing efforts from the Carolina Core. The site is located on the future Interstate 685, which only adds to the opportunity to bring new jobs and investment to the area.

Chatham Park will bring another level of energy and enthusiasm that will benefit the entire community. As this live/work/play development grows, our part of North Carolina will continue to grow and thrive and be known as a top destination for business and residential development, and, combined with the other business parks, creates a unique array of assets across the county for emerging growth companies.

Chatham County’s established base of core, long-standing businesses [is] vital to the continued success of economic vitality for our county. Efforts to support, sustain, grow and expand these businesses will remain an important objective in Chatham County.” – Michael Smith, president, Chatham Economic Development Corporation

It is my hope that a future Chatham County will have abundant, clean and potable water, broadband access for all and plentiful, safe and affordable housing. Electric shuttle service throughout Chatham will be available, specifically a loop that connects Chatham Park, the Chatham Beverage District, Central Carolina Community College and the Chatham County Agriculture & Conference Center with downtown Pittsboro to encourage easy, quiet and clean transportation for residents and visitors. Safe bicycle and pedestrian trails, paths and walkways will connect residential areas with commercial areas. Downtown Pittsboro and downtown Siler City will grow with a mix of locally owned restaurants, night spots and shops. The primary municipalities will have a greater variety of lodging options, which will provide rooms for visitors and generate tax revenues. More art galleries and performance venues [will open] for the abundance of talented visual and performing artists who live here and thrive in our downtowns.” – Lesley L. Landis, Lesley Landis Designs

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