Sunday, June 23, 2024

Community close up: Cumberland County, a hotbed for innovation

Cumberland County is a business-friendly area that offers opportunities in workforce training, easy access to major metropolitan areas and outstanding quality of life.

While Cumberland County is well known for its long-standing military history as home to the U.S. Army’s Special Forces Command and Fort Bragg installation, the region is well-positioned as a strong contender for business investment, talent attraction and job opportunities across a range of sectors. Fayetteville, the sixth-largest city in North Carolina with more than 210,000 residents, is one of the most diverse cities in the nation with some of the state’s best schools, a strong workforce and a people-centric community that offers abundant resources for active-duty military members, veterans, families and students alike. Its central location is within an eight-hour drive of two-thirds of the U.S. population — including Philadelphia; Baltimore; Washington, D.C.; Charleston, S.C.; Atlanta; and New Orleans. Business community and healthy lifestyle offerings are just a few of the region’s key differentiators that not only keep residents active in their community but also puts Cumberland County at the forefront of growth and innovation.

One of the primary, and arguably most unique, pillars of Cumberland County’s economic development position as a rising hub for global innovation is its strong military and veteran population that transitions into the workforce each year. From rigorous training programs at Fort Bragg to local colleges and universities that offer top-rated and affordable education programs, the county produces a steady pipeline of high-quality talent.

Fayetteville State University, Methodist University and Fayetteville Technical Community College have a total enrollment of more than 25,600 students. Fayetteville State set a record this fall for the largest enrollment in its 153-year history, with 6,726 students enrolled. The university’s MBA program was recently ranked No. 3 in North Carolina by U.S. News & World Report, and it boasts a top nursing program in the country, according to the Journal of Nursing. FTCC recently ranked No. 5 in Military Times’ “Best for Vets” designation. Students have a range of industries to train in, from skilled trades and technical roles to sales professionals and cybersecurity experts.

A Strong DefenseTroops stationed at Fort Bragg, the world’s most populated military installation, are technologically advanced leaders with international training and skill sets. FSU and FTCC both have satellite campuses at Fort Bragg and Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in nearby Wayne County, with in-person and online degree programs for military members and training options at nearby Womack Army Medical Center and Fort Bragg Research Institute. More than 6,500 military personnel transition out of Fort Bragg and into the workforce each year, while more than 50,000 veterans work for 850 U.S. Department of Defense contractors in the community. There is no question that one of the region’s greatest assets is its people.

Cumberland County is centrally located along Interstate 95, which provides key advantages for business and lifestyle. Its location makes Fayetteville one of the most accessible and cost-effective cities in the country for supply chain and logistics. Fayetteville and Cumberland County are less than four hours from the ports of Wilmington, Morehead City and Charleston, S.C. The area is conveniently located near Norfolk Southern and CSX railroads, the Aberdeen, Carolina & Western Railway, and Fayetteville Regional Airport, which has a 7,709-foot runway that can accommodate cargo jets.

Cumberland County’s location attracts a diversified industry base, including third-party logistics providers, large manufacturers, building-supplies makers and chemical companies, in addition to the military and Department of Defense-oriented businesses that employ more than 66,000 workers in the region. Some of the businesses currently hiring include Taylor Express, Walmart, Union Corrugating, Chemours and Dansons, a grilling-equipment manufacturer that plans a $28 million plant in Cumberland County.

The region ranks No. 1 in North Carolina for government-contracting work, but the local business community also boasts a strong network of organizations, both large and small, fostered by year-round professional development events, networking opportunities, access to capital and the local workforce. The Greater Fayetteville Chamber also supports a local Military Affairs Council, which fosters opportunities to serve the military and their families through events, education and outreach. Community leaders are establishing an International Support Network for businesses, with ties to Germany, the U.K., Canada, Australia, France, Israel and Italy, further cementing Cumberland County as a center for global innovation.


An important aspect of attracting and retaining talent is a community’s livability. History buffs might know Fayetteville as the site of baseball legend Babe Ruth’s first professional home run, where George Washington formed the Fayetteville Independent Light Infantry under the Militia Act, or where the nation’s first well-known African American novelist, Charles W. Chesnutt, lived during childhood.

Fayetteville is “America’s hometown” and celebrates a diverse, young community for families, military members and students, with a median age of 30. Today, it’s a top 100 U.S. city with a low cost of living and quality housing. For residents who actively seek a healthy lifestyle, the region has plenty of trails, lakes and social sports, such as tennis, golf, annual Spartan Race events and the U.S. Army MWR All American Marathon. Residents and visitors alike can also take advantage of more than 750 miles of themed cultural heritage driving trails, historic sites, entertainment venues, and museums such as the U.S. Army Airborne & Special Operations Museum, which recently celebrated two decades in Fayetteville. Locals say that Cumberland County’s best-kept secret is the food, but the region’s lifestyle offerings are undeniably part of its recipe for establishing a strong community and hometown pride.

Cumberland County’s family-friendly community, affordability, and workforce advantages make it a competitive place for businesses and people who are looking for high-quality talent and jobs. With people and businesses gravitating toward neighborhood-like amenities and strong support networks, the region has what it takes to be top of mind.

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