A quiet revolution is taking place in Richmond County.
Its leaders are business owners and community stakeholders, and its weapons are adhesive notes and oversized pads of sketch paper. It’s a peaceful revolution — seeking not to overthrow, but to overcome our hometowns’ economic challenges and negative perceptions.
We’re talking about For a Better Richmond County, the concerned citizens’ group organized earlier this year. FABRiC held its fourth community forum Monday at the Ellerbe Springs Inn and Campground, where a brainstorming session produced a veritable treasure trove of good ideas.
One that stood out to us is starting a small-business incubator in Richmond County, a shared work space offering free or reduced-cost offices to local startups to serve as a launchpad for new products and services.
Each forum is organized around a theme or idea, and members put on their thinking caps and branch off from there. The first two meetings generated lists of Richmond County’s positive and negative aspects, and in the third, stakeholders delved into public record data to get a sense of which listed items are rooted in reality and which are mere matters of perception.
The fourth forum went “back to the future,” organized around this question: “What does the community of Richmond County do exceptionally well, and what could it do better?”
Members also held a roundtable luncheon at Pattan’s Downtown Grille with the Daily Journal’s editor to discuss concerns about the newspaper’s coverage and opportunities to feature more positive profiles in our pages.
While we won’t stop covering public safety and criminal justice, we understand that some subscribers tire of reading about local crime. Our solution is addition rather than subtraction: We cannot suppress “bad news” when it happens, but we make it our mission to seek out the enlightening, the uplifting and the inspiring in our community.
Simply put, it’s a balancing act, and we think we’re becoming more sure-footed on the tightrope. It’s up to you, our readers, to let us know how we’re doing.
FABRiC is decentralized by design. There is no elected leadership, only volunteers who act as meeting facilitators. Local photographer Jimmy McDonald launched the group’s website, online SWOT survey and Facebook page. Susan Kelly, director of the Richmond County Cooperative Extension, has emerged as a key moderator.
While elected officials including Rockingham Mayor Pro-tem John Hutchinson and county commissioners’ Chairman Kenneth Robinette are active members, all participants have an equal voice at the table.
We’re glad to see Richmond County residents coming together to tackle the challenges our community faces and collaborate to set measurable goals.
What’s perhaps most encouraging is FABRiC’s private, grassroots origin. We believe city and county officials can be a part of the solution, but we can’t look to government to solve all our problems. We want to see concerned citizens — not politicians — driving the bus.
This is a revolution from within, and it’s one that Richmond County residents of all political stripes can get behind.