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Wake Forest Offers Best Of Times, Worst Of Times At Same Time

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WAKE FOREST, N.C. — Like the nation's economy, Wake County's unemployment rate over the past year has been up and down.

The number of people unemployed in the county has wavered between 17,000 and almost 21,000. The unemployment rate has shifted between 4.8 and 5.6 percent.

But, with the economy, we often see two extremes. There's a perfect example of that in the Wake County community of Wake Forest.

There is good and bad in Wake Forest. Boom and bust.

The Athey Plant has been closed for more than a year. The factory made street sweepers and employed almost 200 workers at one point.

Next door to the plant is Heritage Wake Forest, a booming development. There are 200 houses so far and 2,000 more planned.

"Well, to me, it means people are bullish on the economy," said developer Andy Ammons. "They're coming to the area. They're free to spend money. They appreciate the low interest rates, and they're moving up.

"And people are always attracted by those sort of secure, safe feelings that I think our community generates for people."

Boom and bust.

Weavex, a paper plant in Wake Forest, is closing this spring. About 135 workers will lose their jobs. But the town many of those workers live in is beginning to boom as Wake Forest revitalizes its downtown.

"I think Wake Forest is doing well because, downtown, we've opened two or three new businesses in the last year," said Susan Aycock, who owns a downtown art store.

Wake Forest has struggled since George Bush became president. And it has thrived. What's startling is just how evident those extremes are.

Sometimes they are right next door.