On March 12, 2019, twenty-four North Carolina communities located in smaller, rural counties across the state were selected by the N.C. Department of Commerce to participate in Downtown Strong, a new initiative (previously announced here in REVITALIZATION) of the N.C. Main Street & Rural Planning Center.
The program will provide downtown revitalization expertise to selected incorporated rural communities.
In 2018-19, representatives of Governor Roy Cooper’s Hometown Strong initiative visited North Carolina counties to better understand how rural communities could actively reinvigorate their local economies. From the input provided by Hometown Strong counties, as well as insights from the NC towns/cities and counties that work on a regular basis with N.C. Commerce, the Department has identified leadership development and education, building local government capacity, and downtown revitalization as keys to successful economic development in North Carolina’s rural communities.
“Downtowns are the heartbeat of rural North Carolina,” said North Carolina Commerce Secretary Anthony M. Copeland. “Downtown Strong will help small communities regain their economic vibrancy and position them to retain and recruit new businesses, create jobs and spur investment.”
Downtown Strong will assist towns that are not yet part of the formal North Carolina Main Street program, or that have needs outside of the traditional Main Street program. The program will help communities either prepare for the Center’s Downtown Associate Community program, or to prosper on their own. Services will utilize the successful framework of the Main Street America program: downtown economic development strategies implemented through four key areas of focus: economic vitality, design, promotion and organization actions.
“We’re excited to be able to offer this service to rural communities across the state,” added Kenny Flowers, Assistant Secretary for Rural Economic Development. “The Main Street program has a proven track record of success, and Downtown Strong will incorporate components of that successful model into downtown revitalization initiatives for smaller North Carolina communities.”
Experienced downtown revitalization experts will work directly with these communities, in collaboration with the N.C. Commerce Regional Prosperity Zone planners, to provide each town with a thorough downtown assessment and to craft a downtown implementation plan. Towns will also receive training and education, as well as opportunities for networking.
The Downtown Strong communities selected are: Chadbourn, Pembroke, St. Pauls, Maysville, Parkton, Pollocksville, Littleton, Nashville, Weldon, Bailey, Halifax, Princeville, Louisburg, Raeford, Youngsville, Thomasville, Wadesboro, Yanceyville, Lansing, Bryson City, Spindale, Robbinsville, Pilot Mountain and Marshall.
Photo of downtown Pembroke (won of the selected communities) by Gerry Dincher via Wikipedia.