On January 22, 2019, the North Carolina Department of Commerce announced that it’s investing $260,000 in Downtown Strong, a program to build local government capacity by providing economic development planning and revitalization resources and guidance.
The program is a result of feedback gleaned from Governor Roy Cooper’s Hometown Strong initiative. Downtown Strong will operate out of the Department of Commerce’s Main Street and Rural Planning Center.
“As we work with small communities throughout our state, local governments need more capacity and resources to tackle the unique challenges they face,” said Governor Cooper. “Downtown Strong will provide planning and revitalization expertise to communities across North Carolina that otherwise might not have access to these resources.”
Downtown Strong is a result of feedback from rural leaders during Hometown Strong community meetings. Hometown Strong convenes leaders from every cabinet agency to meet with local leaders to forge new relationships, increase communication and help state government better serve rural North Carolinians.
The Main Street and Rural Planning Center, which will head up Downtown Strong, provides technical assistance services to communities that are revitalizing and preserving their traditional downtown commercial districts as mixed-use centers of activity. Downtown Strong will assist communities that are not yet part of the formal Main Street program or that have needs outside the traditional program.
“The NC Main Street and Rural Planning Center has deep economic and community development expertise, especially for downtowns in rural and smaller communities,” said Secretary of Commerce Anthony M. Copeland. “Through Downtown Strong, we can provide more communities with these elite resources.”
Downtown Strong will provide a downtown assessment of each participating community, as well as staff training, technical assistance and other resources. Services and resources will use the Main Street America™ approach, which establishes economic development strategies and implementation plans through economic vitality, design, promotion and organization actions.
The traditional Main Street program includes a Downtown Associate Community program for smaller communities or those just starting revitalization efforts. Downtown Strong will help interested communities prepare to become Downtown Associate Communities or will help them prosper on their own.
The program is available to all eligible communities in North Carolina. If you’re a local government official and would like to learn more, email Liz Parham, Director of the NC Main Street and Rural Planning Center, for more information at email@example.com.
Photo of popular downtown park in Asheville, NC by Storm Cunningham.