Raleigh, N.C.

North Carolina community and economic development leaders will convene virtually for the 2021 North Carolina Main Street Conference, March 9-11. Organized by the North Carolina Department of Commerce and its N.C. Main Street and Rural Planning Center, this year’s conference will be held online to ensure a safe and healthy environment for all participants. The annual conference is expected to attract more than 700 people. 

Celebrating the 20th anniversary of the North Carolina Main Street conference, the theme of this three-day event is, Main Street: Pivoting for Prosperity. The theme recognizes that the Main Street Program helps communities, businesses, property owners, and individuals build more resilient downtowns that are better equipped to face the next pandemic, natural disaster, market shift, or another crisis. The Main Street Program and its strategies, principles, and comprehensive Four-Point Approach™ to downtown revitalization, helps communities pivot for prosperity. The Program was developed more than 40 years ago as a result of the development of malls and strip centers that attracted anchor businesses to relocate from downtowns. Small towns and cities across the country had to pivot to survive and to thrive. To many, it seemed like a man-made disaster had struck, but downtowns came back stronger than ever and they will do it again.

The 2021 North Carolina Main Street Conference will explore a deeper commitment to local. The key to economic development in small cities and towns is local investment, locally owned businesses, and a vast array of local volunteerism and community engagement. This 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.

As the nation’s largest statewide downtown revitalization conference, the North Carolina Main Street Conference offers one of the most innovative approaches to downtown revitalization and redevelopment in the Southeast.

Attendees can expect a mix of inspiring keynotes, engaging plenary and break-out sessions, timely roundtable conversations, and a downtown toolkit of pre-recorded sessions with experienced presenters to conveniently listen to. This year’s conference will provide attendees with the tools, data, and knowledge to take on current and future challenges.

Keynote speakers include Michael Shuman, economist, attorney and author, and Kennedy Smith, Senior Researcher with the Institute for Local Self-Reliance.    Shuman will begin the conference on Tuesday, March 9 with a discussion on Resiliency for Locally-Owned Businesses.  Smith will speak on Thursday, March 11 with a presentation on the Possibilities for Prosperity.

In addition to the keynotes, three plenary sessions are scheduled for the conference. On Tuesday, March 9, Ed McMahon, Senior Fellow, Urban Land Institute, will present an examination of how the pandemic is affecting retail, housing, land use and economic development.  On Wednesday, March 10, Erik Pages, President of EntreWorks Consulting, will discuss effective strategies for building a more resilient local economy built on innovation, entrepreneurship, and creativity; and Ben Muldrow, Partner with Arnett Muldrow and Associates, will discuss the long-term impacts of COVID-19 on communicating, marketing, and planning for downtown.  The conference will include 10 pre-recorded downtown toolkit presentations, eight breakout sessions, and eight roundtable conversations, on March 9-11, covering a broad spectrum of downtown revitalization topics, trends, and opportunities.

The annual North Carolina Main Street Awards Ceremony will be held on Wednesday, March 10 and the Main Street Champions Recognition will be held on Thursday, March 11. These two events recognize outstanding projects completed in Main Street downtowns throughout the state and honor individuals dedicated to making their downtowns thriving places.

For more information and to register, visit NCMainStreetandPlanning.com.

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