When I moved to Wake Forest in 1981 we had a population of around 3,000. It was a neat little community back then – still recovering from the loss of Wake Forest College more than two decades earlier. Fortunately, we had several advantages working in our favor, including passionate residents who loved Wake Forest, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and a prime location in northern Wake County poised for phenomenal growth.
Twenty years later, when I was first elected mayor, our population had more than quadrupled to 12,500 – and we were still growing. In fact, during the first few years of the 21st Century, we averaged an annual population increase of 12-15 percent.
Without question, the growth of the Triangle had a tremendous impact on Wake Forest, yet we strategically capitalized on our location by extending to potential residents the opportunity for exceptional suburban living in close proximity to Raleigh, RDU International Airport, Durham and Research Triangle Park.
From the very beginning, my goal as mayor was to work alongside our neighboring communities to provide connections of infrastructure and services to make living in the Triangle a great experience but ensure the quality of life in Wake Forest was the best of all. Over the past 18 years, I believe that goal has been realized. For me, it has been especially rewarding and exciting to welcome so many new residents from across the country and around the world. In many instances, newcomers to our community have brought with them energy and excitement that is a blessing to our community.
Wake Forest is an entrepreneur-friendly community. One notable example of such friendliness is the Wireless Research Center (WRC) of North Carolina. The WRC is the vision come to life of Gerard Hayes, who several years ago shared with me his dream of bringing to Wake Forest a state-of-the art wireless testing facility. Together, we encouraged the Town to get involved and introduced the concept to other groups, including the Golden Leaf Foundation, which helped get the non-profit started. The WRC has been a catalyst for Wake Forest to attract technology start-ups and has brought people here from all over the world to take advantage of the testing facility and the wireless expertise found here.
Our commercial growth has been primarily focused on the retail and service sectors with some growth in small industry. We would welcome a large business that might want to relocate here but we feel that our niche is in becoming a thriving hub of innovation and technology that comes from the entrepreneurs who are finding Wake Forest a great place to settle, start their business and grow. We find that most of our business “success stories” are homegrown businesses. I find it very exciting that our future hinges on fulfilling the dreams of many by our support.
Wake Forest is a unique and wonderful community that continues to be recognized for its passionate citizens. We have a charming historic downtown that boasts a mix of new shops and stores that have been here for more than 100 years! Our residents love our many community events including Friday Night on White, Mardi Gras, Dirt Day and Meet in the Street—just to name a few. The four goals of our strategic plan are the driving force behind our work: to encourage economic development, to have a safe and connected community, to have a value-based organizational culture and to maintain our fiscal strength. Wake forest is a great place to live and a great place to have your business.
Vivian Jones Mayor, Wake Forest, North Carolina