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Fayetteville Leaders Concerned About Sluggish Retail Sales

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FAYETTEVILLE — Report cards are normally given to students, but on Wednesday the city of Fayetteville received one. It rated several areas of community life, including the economy. According to the report, the city relies too heavily on retail sales.

Cumberland County is known as a retail magnet to the tune of nearly $3 billion last year. But in the last three years, retail sales have been sluggish.

It has become such a concern that MetroVisions, a community watchdog group, considers the economic woes a red flag issue.

"When you see a trend where it's leveling off, we are really going to think about diversifying our economy to other high-tech businesses," says Dr. Ernest Johnson of MetroVisions.

The drop in sales could be due to a slowing growth in population. Whatever the reason, leaders see it as a wake-up call to not be so dependent on the retail and military sectors.

"If we can attract businesses in telecommunication or manufacturing, that's going to increase average wages for citizens," says Gary Cooper of theFayetteville Chamber of Commerce.

One way they hope to do that is with a military skills assessment. Economic development leaders will use it to help them target industry groups that match the skills of people leaving the military.

Beau Garcia found a match withAdvanced Internet Technologiesbut almost left the area after getting out of the Army.

"It was very difficult depending on pay and opportunity that had rapid progression," Garcia says.

Another red flag issue concerning the community is the increase in child abuse and fatalities.

On a bright note, the county received gold stars for an increase in donations to nonprofit agencies and a decrease in violent juvenile crime.

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Melissa Buscher, Reporter
Michael Joyner, Photographer
Kamal Wallace, Web Editor

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