Community and economic development leaders from across the state will gather for the 2020 North Carolina Main Street Conference March 10-12, 2020.
Organized by the North Carolina Department of Commerce and its N.C. Main Street and Rural Planning Center, the conference will convene in New Bern to explore downtown revitalization and economic development strategies.
Celebrating N.C. Main Street Program’s 40th anniversary, the three-day conference theme, Main Street Math: 3B+ 27K = 40Y, is expected to attract more than 700 people. 3B represents $3.2 billion in public and private investment made in N.C. Main Street and Small Town Main Street communities since the inception of the N.C. Main Street program in 1980. 27K signifies a net gain of more than 27,000 jobs that have been created in our state’s downtown districts through the Main Street program. 40Y represents the 40 years that the state of North Carolina has been working in partnership with local communities to revitalize downtowns through the implementation of the National Main Street Center’s Main Street America™ program. North Carolina is one of the first states selected to participate in the program, and today the state has one of the largest and most active programs in the entire country.
The 2020 conference will explore the impact of the program over the past 40 years and will look to the future for forthcoming areas of engagement. This 19-year-old event is the largest statewide downtown revitalization conference in the country, and it assembles anyone interested in the economic growth and success of downtown districts and rural communities.
New Bern is one of the original Main Street programs in both the country and the state. This riverfront city has experienced tremendous success with their downtown initiatives over the past 40 years. Since launching their program in 1980, New Bern has received more than $338 million in investment, which created 174 businesses and renovated more than 250 buildings.
The beautifully renovated New Bern Riverfront Convention Center, which recently reopened after Hurricane Florence renovations, will serve as the conference headquarters. While in town, attendees are encouraged to visit Tryon Palace, explore the birthplace of Pepsi-Cola, walk through the N.C. History Center, enjoy the local cuisine, do a little shopping with the local merchants, and watch the sunrise and sunset over the convergence of the Neuse and Trent rivers in downtown New Bern.
Keynote speakers include Donavan Rypkema, Principal of PlaceEconomics and President of Heritage Strategies International, and Ilana Preuss, Founder of Recast City, LLC. Rypkema will begin the conference on Tuesday, March 10 with a behind-the-scenes look at the impact of the N.C. Main Street Program. Preuss will speak on Wednesday, March 11 with a presentation on how to incorporate small scale manufacturing into the business mix on Main Street.
In addition to the keynotes, two plenary sessions are scheduled for the conference. Former N.C. Main Street Director and current Senior Associate with PlaceEconomics, Rodney Swink, and current Main Street Director, Liz Parham will explore the projects that generated more than $3 billion in investment. Irvin Henderson, Principal with Henderson & Company and Board Member for the National Main Street Center will speak on spurring downtown investment. The conference will include 20 breakout sessions on March 11-12, that cover a wide range of downtown revitalization topics, and six tours of downtown New Bern that will look at everything from housing to cultural facilities.
The annual North Carolina Main Street Awards Dinner and Ceremony will be held on Wednesday, March 11 and the Main Street Champions Recognition will be held on Thursday, March 12. These two events recognize outstanding projects completed in Main Street downtowns throughout the state and honor individuals dedicated to making their downtowns thriving places.
Photo courtesy of the New Bern Riverfront Convention Center.