“The record capital investment for our Main Street communities is encouraging evidence about the energy of our rural downtowns and the viability of this important component of North Carolina’s economic development strategy,” said Secretary Copeland. “As our smaller cities and towns navigate the post-pandemic recovery, leadership and technical support from the Main Street program will help communities embrace long-range opportunities.”
Currently, designated Main Street communities range in population from 1,615 to 92,067. All were under 50,000 in population at the time of their designation. These communities are managed at the local level by a Main Street director, a board of directors and a host of community volunteers.
Main Street communities reported the following statistics from their 2019-20 work:
- $361,454,314 in downtown public and private investment
- 1,262 new jobs
- 260 new businesses
- 242 building renovations
- 398 façade improvements
- 84,017 volunteer hours with a value of $2,032,371
While the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a decline in business growth and new jobs from the previous year, public and private investment was up by nearly $100 million over 2018-19, demonstrating the increase in rehabilitation and new construction that is occurring in downtown districts across the state.
“Main Street is a strong economic development program with proven success for cities and towns of all sizes,” said Liz Parham, director of the N.C. Commerce Main Street and Rural Planning Center. “The structure of a Main Street program provides a public-private foundation to build a downtown environment that thrives, and as a partner with the local programs, our office is committed to providing resources, assistance and guidance that will build more resilient local economies.”
Eleven percent of the public and private investment was generated in downtown Wilson. “Being a part of the national and state-level Main Street Program has provided a comprehensive framework for our downtown’s successful growth and development,” said Kimberly Van Dyk, director of planning and community revitalization for the City of Wilson. “This past year’s $40+ million dollars of investment in Historic Downtown Wilson’s revitalization is the result of strong community leadership, dynamic public-private partnerships, vibrant special events and public art, the cornerstone of which is the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park.”
The City of Belmont generated 10 percent of the state’s total new downtown businesses and 15 percent of the total jobs represented in the latest Main Street statistics. “Even during this unprecedented pandemic, Belmont continues to see investment into our community, which is a testament to how important private-public partnerships are to small downtowns like ours,” said City of Belmont Downtown Director Phil Boggan. “The City of Belmont is extremely fortunate to have great city leaders, staff, local organizations and private partners working in unison toward making downtown a vibrant, multi-generational community with a charmful entrepreneurial spirit.”
Since the inception of the program in 1980, North Carolina Main Street communities have generated nearly $3.5 billion in downtown public and private investment, created over 26,000 jobs and opened 6,235 businesses.
Designated Small Town Main Street communities have similarly been successful in revitalizing the state’s smallest communities. The Small Town Main Street program operates in communities with populations below 5,000 that have the capacity to run a volunteer-driven downtown revitalization initiative. Small Town Main Street communities reported the following statistics from their 2019-20 work:
- $11,254,846 in downtown public and private investment
- 49 new jobs
- 7 new businesses
- 18 building renovations
- 16 facade improvements
- 19,825 volunteer hours with a value of $479,567
The investment figure represents a more than $3.2 million increase from 2018-19. Since the inception in 2003, the Small Town Main Street program facilitated $128,238,765 in downtown public and private investment, more than 1,900 jobs and a net gain of 535 businesses.
The N.C. Main Street and Rural Planning Center at the Commerce Department assists selected communities across the state in generating economic prosperity in historic downtowns. The Main Street staff provides strategic economic development planning and technical assistance, program guidance, and training and education to participating communities under the structure of the Main Street America™ program, created by the National Main Street Center. The program incorporates transformative economic development strategies that are implemented through a Four-Point Approach to Downtown Revitalization: Economic Vitality, Design, Promotion, and Organization.
For more information on the N.C. Main Street and Rural Planning Center and its programs, visit https://www.nccommerce.com/about-us/divisions-programs/rural-economic-development/nc-main-street-rural-planning-center.