In a year when downtowns all across America struggled economically, why did little Morganton, North Carolina’s thrive?

In a year when everything shut down, people worked from home, minimized time out in public and businesses closed frequently, downtown Morganton, North Carolina (pop. 17,000) persevered…and even thrived.

This was in large part because they had an effective, ongoing local revitalization program in place, which—as advocated by the RECONOMICS Institute in Washington, DC, and as documented in the 2020 book, RECONOMICS: The Path To Resilience Prosperity—is the best way to generate economic resilience.

As part of its annual accreditation with the National Main Street program, Downtown Morganton is required to keep track of multiple statistics related to economic development each year that indicate its success as a Main Street office.

The statistics for fiscal year 2020-2021 are in, and despite a few COVID-related setbacks, all the numbers for Downtown Morganton trended in a positive direction.

Morganton residents should be very proud of the hard work from both the public and private sector that happened in order to get such impressive numbers, especially during a pandemic year,” said Morganton Main Street Manager Abby Nelson.

When other municipalities shutdown, Morganton persevered and these numbers reflect that,” she added.

Here’s a summary of downtown Morganton’s economic revitalization activity:

  • Private Investment (consisting of property acquisitions and sales + private improvements and new constructions): $6,762,365
  • Public Investment (consisting of property acquisitions and sales + private improvements and new constructions): $3,263,171
  • Number of Public Improvement Projects: 6
  • Business Development Activity:
    • Number of Businesses Opened: 11
    • Full Time Jobs Gained: 17
    • Part Time Jobs Gained: 9
    • Number of Businesses Closed: 4
    • Full Time Jobs Lost: 11
    • Part Time Jobs Lost: 3
    • NET GAIN:
    • Number of Businesses: 7
    • Number of Full Time Jobs: 6
    • Number of Part Time Jobs: 6
    • Business Expansion: 1
  • Building Redevelopment/Development Activity
    • Number of Façade Improvements: 19
    • Number of Building Rehabilitations Completed: 3
    • Number of New Construction Projects: 1
    • Number of Housing Units Created: 10

Downtown Morganton also saw significant volunteer time devoted to making the city a better place. In total, there were 831 hours of volunteer time logged. The current value of volunteer time in North Carolina is valued at $25.98/hour, which equates to $21,589.38 worth of volunteered time to Morganton’s Main Street and Downtown.

Against all odds, Downtown Morganton had a successful year,” Nelson said.

This is a direct result of all of our citizens and volunteers pitching in to help events go on, business stay open, and allow our City to continue to thrive under less than ideal circumstances,” she continued.

Even in a year of uncertainty and chaos, Morganton’s Downtown still found a way to safely hold promotional events and give citizens something to do while encouraging adherence to all Centers for Disease Control guidelines.

A total of 86 events were programmed during FY 2020-2021, including Farmers Markets, Carriage Rides, and other promotional activities throughout the year.

Based upon a conservative estimate by Morganton’s Main Street Office regarding attendance of these events and average money spent by attendees per event, the Main Street Office estimates some $943,000 was spent in Downtown Morganton as a direct result of these promotional events.

Featured photo courtesy of City of Morganton.

See the official Morganton website.

See Morganton Main Street website.

You must be logged in to post a comment