“We’re driving and she says, literally with a tear in her eye, ‘We’re moving here, aren’t we?’” Peters said. “She could see the special things going on here.”
A few weeks later, Doug and Whitney Peters brought their three children to Fayetteville. But the parents, who were leaning toward making the move from Ohio to North Carolina, billed the trip simply as a vacation. They were hoping to gauge the kids’ enthusiasm for Fayetteville and Cumberland County. Near the end of the trip, which was filled with visits to some of the area’s top attractions, the couple’s oldest child, 14-year-old Elliott, said to his parents, “We ought to live here.” Turns out Doug Peters didn’t have to make a hard sell at all; Cumberland County sold itself. That’s a big reason why the longtime Midwesterner uprooted his family from Ohio and left a job he was satisfied with for new challenges as the head of the Fayetteville-Cumberland County Chamber of Commerce. “I wasn’t looking for a job,” Peters said. "(We) were very happy where we were living. But after I was contacted about the job and really took a second look at the opportunity, I figured I’d give it a shot.
“Then I got to Fayetteville, and the moment I got off the plane I could tell that the people here just got it. They know the potential of this community and are willing to do what’s needed to be done to reach that potential. That’s what attracted me.”
Being the leader of the Chamber of Commerce makes Peters essentially Fayetteville and Cumberland County’s head cheerleader. The 44-year-old, who replaced former Chamber head Bill Martin earlier this year, knows that job well. He’s worked for 23 years in the chambers of commerce of several communities. It’s a job that puts Peters at the convergence of a community’s government, business and industry.
“I think the best way I can describe what the chamber does is that we do all the things that most people think just happen,” Peters said.
“I view it as a triangle with government, business and industry. It’s our job to help ensure those three areas work together for the benefit of the community as a whole.” That means Peters is one of Fayetteville and Cumberland County’s point people on the dynamic changes the recent Base Realignment and Closure plans will bring to the region. By 2011, it is estimated that anywhere from 25,000 to 40,000 new residents will move to the area thanks to the arrival of Forces Command and U.S. Army Reserve Command at Fort Bragg.
The population infusion means remarkable changes for the community, changes that Peters said few can comprehend right now.
“We’ve all heard that BRAC is going to have an impact,” Peters said. “But I don't think we have any idea of how positive this will be for Fayetteville and Cumberland County. This is our game to lose. I think our biggest challenge is positioning ourselves so that we’re ready to take advantage of every opportunity BRAC will bring.”
Community leaders are readying for BRAC’s impact, and their eagerness to turn it into a growth opportunity is a big part of what attracted Peters to Fayetteville. It also helped that the community had done so much to improve itself long before BRAC became an issue. Downtown redevelopment is evidence of that, according to Peters.
“Downtown is a great showplace for this community,” he said recently. “Downtown is everyone’s neighborhood. It’s in economic development’s best interest to have a vibrant downtown. To see what Fayetteville had done with its downtown, and to hear stories of how far downtown has come it really showed me this community’s commitment.”
All of it reaffirms the decision Peters and his family made to move here. The move from the Midwest has been a smooth one, Peters said, despite the fact that he and his wife spent most of their lives there — he was born in Virginia and lived there a short while before moving to Ohio. Peters is giddy over the fact that he was able to sell the snow blade for his tractor and may never have to shovel his way out of a huge snowstorm again.
But perhaps the best testament to Peters’ assuredness that he and his family made the right move is his children’s adjustment to their new home.
Oldest child Elliott plays football at Mac Williams Middle School. Eleven-year-old daughter Alaina has continued her aspiring ice skating career at Fort Bragg’s ice rink.
And then there's his youngest child, Anderson, who is 6.
“He’s my pal,” Peters said.