All-America City

In 2013, Dunn was one of three North Carolina towns selected as an “All-America City” by the National Civic League.

Mayor Oscar Harris summed up Dunn’s presence at the competition well. “We may be small but we dream big.”

Dunn was the smallest town to ever win an All-America City award back in 1989. Fast forward to 2013, it isn’t the smallest anymore, but with a population of 9,264, it’s significantly smaller than most finalists. Despite its size, Dunn brought 72 delegates – more than any other finalist – without cost to taxpayers to tell the city’s story. Most of the 72 delegates, ranged in age from 9 to mid-70’s, and participated in the presentation to show how the partnerships positively affect their lives.

Three projects were presented to win the honor the City of Dunn is so proud of.

Harnett Health:

Central Harnett Hospital is located in the nearby town of Lillington, but civic leaders in Dunn were instrumental in the planning, negotiation, and financial investment that led to its development. The new, 50-bed hospital is poised to provide state-of-the-art health care to residents of the region, making it possible to be treated much closer to home than ever before. It is now an integral part of Harnett Health, a not-for-profit partnership made up of Wake Med, Harnett County and the City of Dunn.

Initially, the hospital was city owned, but city council made the tough decision to transfer ownership to an independent non-profit organization in light of the anticipated extraordinary growth. The largest capital project in Harnett County’s history, Central Harnett Hospital created 174 jobs, with many more expected as expansion occurs.

Harnett Health is expected to grow quickly, resulting in the addition of more than 500 new jobs in the next ten years and an economic impact of $700 million.

City Center Revitalization:

In one decade, the Downtown Dunn Development Corporation has overseen an astonishing transformation of the historic city center, including burying power lines and telecommunication cables, renovating the aged water and sewer system, replacing pavement, and incorporating attractive brick and cement features.

Funded by a loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development Program, the total cost of the downtown revitalization was about $3.2 million. Over the three years of physical work, the Corporation posted a weekly progress report on its website to update citizens on what was being accomplished.

With grants to individual business owners from the Corporation, the facades of downtown businesses are updated, safe and attractive to passersby.

Police Athletic League:

The League keeps young people engaged with multifaceted programs, from athletics and competitive sports to martial arts to SAT/ACT test preparation for young people ages 6 to 18. Its mentoring component matches girls and boys ages 11 to 18 with positive adult role models. Teens interested in learning leadership and life skills can join the Youth Leadership Council, which promotes volunteerism, public service, and an understanding of civics and government.

Funding the diverse League programs is a challenge, but grants from national and state organizations as well as numerous donations of time and money have kept the program going.

The Police Athletic League serves as many as 300 young people annually and has benefited thousands of youth throughout the entirety of its existence.

There was also an oversight committee that focused on other projects in Dunn, like the business incubator, new veterans’ memorial park and local school systems, which recently received recognition for outstanding leadership.

Continue to Dream Big!

Upon winning the honor, Dunn merchants hung red, white and blue ribbons on their doors to show off the new award, and celebrations were held complete with a reenactment of the presentation. Mayor Oscar Harris said the award will encourage the city to develop its vision for the future.

“To be able to take those programs to a national level and compare them to what other cities have done gives us an opportunity to cast greater visions for the future and enables us to continue to dream big.”

(Excerpted and modified from Article, Southern City, July/August 2013)

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