In 2000, the Wake County town of Fuquay-Varina held a population of 8,300. Pushing 30,000 today, it’s a talker of a town, ranked as one of North Carolina’s most-surging.
“Really, the changes we’ve seen in Fuquay-Varina have been quite transformational,” said Adam Mitchell, town manager.
Stories of recruitments and economic expansions have been on a steady pump from the city, giving Mitchell’s staff plenty to manage.
“Growth is something that we deal with on a daily basis in Fuquay-Varina, and new residents coming into our community all the time — and visitors coming into our community,” he said during an interview inside the new, soon-to-open Fuquay-Varina Arts Center, yet another town-led economic development project making use of a former department store building downtown.
With all of this growth, downtown is a centerpiece, said Mitchell.
“It’s been the focal point. It’s been where people often times get their first impression, by coming downtown and seeing what the town is all about,” the town manager said.
That being the case, local government has taken seriously downtown’s well-being and the satisfaction of existing business owners.
“Part of it is our Main Street program and the investments that we make as a community through revitalization and working with our businesses downtown,” said Mayor John W. Byrne during a visit to Cultivate Coffee Roastery, which employs 12 people in a renovated former EMS station.
“We love the downtown community,” said Alex Somerville, the roastery’s owner. “It’s well supported by the mayor and all of the government officials here. They promote small businesses and they know it’s about family and that this is our livelihood.”
She said Cultivate packed with business from the jump, despite not having advertised the grand opening at all.
“People were just interested, that they saw movement in the building, and they came in…. That first month was amazing,” said Somerville.
The renovation of the Cultivate building was a public-private partnership with the town, which among other things offers facade grants and other incentive assistance for local business growth.
“So we’ve invested quite a bit of public investment into our downtown with the hopes that it would leverage private investment,” said Mitchell. “It has, and we’re continuing to demonstrate and show confidence to the private sector that we’re willing to invest in our downtown (and) they should be willing to invest in our downtown as well.”
Downtown, which also recently saw the selection of a developer for a $40 million mixed-use project and a separate expansion of Aviator Brewing Company with 75 jobs, isn’t the only success story coming out of Fuquay-Varina.
The town also in 2018 bought industrial acreage to market to advanced manufacturing firms. Said Town Economic Development Director Jim Seymour at the time, “As Fuquay-Varina continues to experience robust, transformational growth, it is important that the town strategically leverage public resources to attract quality private sector investment that supports the growth of our community.”