Robbins Officially Kicking Off NC STEP
Commentary on this story on Thursday's Headlines Podcast .
The program, whose name is short for "North Carolina Small Towns Economic Prosperity," will bring coaching, front-of-the-line preference on state grants, and other help as the people in and around Robbins reinvent their town as a place to see and a place to live.
It all starts with a celebration Saturday.
Robbins originally ordered a dozen 4-by-2-foot blue cloth hanging banners bearing a silk-screened design evoking the town's passage from a few farmers gathering hazelnuts for market -- "Hazel Neck," they called this neck of Bear Creek -- to a site for gunsmiths here on "Mechanics Hill" as the 1700s turned into the 19th Century -- to a railroad town named for its railroader's daughter, "Elise" -- then (changing its name again to please the U.S. Post Office) after a coil of rope on the floor of a hardware store, as "Hemp" -- and finally as namesake of the textile industrialist Karl Robbins.
Details of the banner were to remain hidden, rolled up, until the day. Despite that, local businesses bought more banners, laying out more than $200 apiece, to add to that first dozen. Robbins is attaching them to pole brackets all over, spreading their touch of blue up and down the hill above and below the depot, and around the corner toward the old mill.
Though the banners are not yet ready, an image of the design will be revealed officially on Saturday -- Farmers Day parade day -- as dignitaries, officials, and others gather by the Railroad Stage at The Old Elise Depot to cheer a new beginning for the centerpiece of Moore County's Foothills.
Construction on the depot's transformation into a Foothills area cultural center and transportation museum has been delayed, set back as a result of an architect's illness, but that hasn't dampened the enthusiasm of Northern Moore Tomorrow (NMT) president Noah Phillips or NC STEP leader Theron Bell.
From the time commissioner Mark Garner picked up a piece of discarded paper from a Carthage street and found a flyer for the NC STEP competition, a flooding tide of enthusiasm has been building about Robbins.
The idea of a community experiencing a change of heart -- from a scene of failing factories and lost jobs to a culture aware of itself, its history, natural beauty, and potential to attract visitors and new residents -- has captured attention all over Moore County.
At the last NC STEP team meeting, as Bell laid out details of roll-out day, she presented new Moore County Chamber of Commerce president Patrick Coughlin -- already a Foothills fan himself.
"We are very excited," he said. "I have to tell you, it is destiny that we are involved. My wife is from Stanly County, and her maiden name is -- Step!"
When NC STEP rolls out after Saturday's parade, Coughlin promised not only that he'd be there to see it all, but that the Chamber would be supporting the effort all the way.
"We'll be there," he said.
John Chappell may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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