As we just enter the New Year, my hopes for our wonderful city to finally get its big economic break were dashed. Runner up in the big game of corporate whale hunting is the kind of losing described by Ricky Bobby “If you ain’t first, you’re last.” As I approach 40 years on this earth, our city approaches 40 years of losing. Why?
I have found the “Why” question is a tough one to answer. Is it a political thing? Is it an incentive thing? Is it a people thing? Do we need to spend more money on sidewalks or schools? Each of these could be an answer to this question. For each business that we have courted the reasons may be different. I don’t really know the answer to the question of why.
What I do know is that we have a lot to be proud of. Keep your chin up Greensboro, as continued failure is something that should be worn as a badge of honor. The truth is we are continuing to improve and we have our best days in front of us. The only real failure is quitting. So why should we carry on, dealing with the pain of being oh so close so many times? In my opinion, we have a ton of reasons and a really great story to share with the world. As I encounter people from other areas of the country, I will no longer let them look down their nose at Greensboro. To quote the big dude Adam Duggins, “Get Your Swagger Back, Greensboro!”
History is one thing that Greensboro has. We have a history that is rich and unique. We were where the Quakers established the first Underground Railroad in the 1830s, even before we were named. I grew up on Cornwallis Drive right here in Greensboro. The road named after the British General who many say lost the Revolutionary War in Greensborough even though he won the Battle of Guilford Courthouse. He surrendered in Yorktown after having to retreat due to the casualties his troops experienced at the hand of General Greene, our namesake. (Clue- Natty Greene’s is named after General Nathaniel Greene, not the other way around) Our city began to prosper in the 1800s as it became one of the largest textile manufacturing hubs in the nation. The rail system coming through Greensboro solidified our relevance in the future of the state. We even had a trolley system between 1902 and 1934 with twelve miles of track that mostly served downtown. We were the home to the Woolworth Sit-Ins, a pivotal movement in the desegregation movement that helped reshape our nation for the better. It happened right here in Greensboro. The list of historically significant events that occurred in Greensboro, North Carolina goes on and on. I implore you to learn some of it and don’t be so intimidated by our neighbors to the South in Charlotte, or those to the East in Raleigh.
Our people and sense of community are something we can be proud of. If you don’t believe that, get downtown one Friday for first Fridays. We have people of all walks of life, cultures and creeds enjoying all that downtown has to offer. There is a reason they call Greensboro Tournament Town, despite what Jim Boeheim has to say. The reason we are tournament town is because we as a community love to have guests from all around to enjoy great competition. Volunteers make a lot of that happen. If you still need convincing, let me know. I would like to personally invite you to the Christmas Tree lighting downtown next year. Come, look around in wonder as our entire community sings carols, counts down and lights the huge tree in Center City Park. Go visit one of the many local parks or enjoy a bike ride on the Greenway. Go to a Hoppers game and feel the energy. Visit any one of many places of worship in the city. Go watch our North Carolina A&T Aggies beat everyone on the gridiron. We have a sense of community and the threads that make up our community fabric are strong, diverse and well woven to make this a special place.
Our resiliency is something we can be proud of. Economically, we have been hit hard by a perfect storm hitting the tobacco, furniture and textile industries. Yet we are still standing and beginning to really thrive again. In fact, Toyota and Mazda made a huge error in not taking advantage of that and picking our mega-site for their new venture. We are on the brink of something great. I don’t know what the economic engine will be as of yet but I know it will happen. There is a certain confidence that comes from resiliency. We should stand proud as true survivors of economic disaster. As we now build new sectors to call Greensboro home, logistics, nanotechnology and aircraft manufacturing have all come to be part of that movement. We should be proud of our resiliency.
I have seen during my short adult stint here a change. There is a certain “je ne sais quoi” in the air. The efforts of a few at first, and more and more and a few more over the years are beginning to have a compounding effect on the community we all call home and the magic is happening. The next time you are travelling and someone asks where you are from, don’t hang your head and mumble “greensboro, north carolina.” That is not fair to our great city. I want you to take a deep breath, stick your chest out and belt out that “I am from GREENSBORO, NORTH CAROLINA and damn proud of it.” That is swagger. Maybe just this sense of pride is what is missing to put us over the top.
Oh, one more thing. If it is Jim Boeheim, you grab him by the collar, pull his face close to yours and tell him he is welcome in our city any time and that you know someone (myself) who would love to educate him with a proper tour, history lesson and taste of our special hospitality.