Raleigh, N.C.

The state’s largest conference focused on bringing new vitality to downtown business districts will open in Shelby tomorrow (March 14). The North Carolina Department of Commerce’s Main Street & Rural Planning Center organizes and hosts the annual conference, which this year is expected to draw more than 500 participants.

The three-day conference theme – “Main Street: What’s Your Strategy?” - focuses on the state’s economic development strategies and the creative applications of those strategies in downtown districts across the state through the Main Street program. Attendees will learn how to identify successful strategies and how to create an ensemble of projects that support and facilitate economic development in their communities.

“History shows the Main Street methodology and approach works,” said North Carolina Commence Secretary Anthony M. Copeland. “Since 1980, more than $2.54 billion in public and private investment has been generated and put to work by North Carolina Main Street or Small Town Main Street communities.”

Sessions at the conference will cover a variety of downtown-related topics, including helping small businesses improve their customers’ experience, understanding the impact of recreational trails, strategic steps to motivate stakeholders, hotel redevelopment projects and exploring ways to encourage customers to spend locally, among other sessions.

Keynote speakers include The Honorable Knox White, Mayor of Greenville, South Carolina and Kimber Lanning, founder and Executive Director of Local First Arizona.

Mayor White will kick off the conference on Tuesday afternoon. He will share the story of his downtown and the factors he attributes to its success - careful strategic planning, clear vision, and a commitment to successful public/private partnerships. He will offer his list of lessons learned to help attendees develop their own transformative, asset-based economic development strategies.

Ms. Lanning closes the conference on Thursday with her talk “The Importance of Local Ownership in Building Great Places.” She will cover a range of topics related to what makes people love their hometown and why that matters for economic development. She will address how consumer spending impacts job opportunities, how money moves through prosperous communities, and how the built environment either encourages or discourages opportunities for places to prosper.

In conjunction with the conference, the annual North Carolina Main Street Awards Reception and Program will be held on Wednesday, March 15 and the Main Street Champions Recognition will be held on Thursday, March 16. These two events recognize outstanding projects taking place in Main Street downtowns throughout the state and honors the efforts of those dedicated individuals who have gone the extra mile to make their downtowns thriving places.

The North Carolina Main Street Conference is a celebration of the economic development accomplishments made in small and medium sized towns in the state. Since 1980, North Carolina Main Street and Small Town Main Street communities have generated over $2.54 billion in public and private investment. More than 21,400 cumulative, net new full-time and part-time jobs and 5,500 new businesses have been created in North Carolina Main Street districts since the program’s inception. In the last seven years, more than $10 Million in N.C. Main Street grant programs have been awarded to projects that will support 83 businesses and generate more than $58.8 million in private investment. In the state’s 2015-16 fiscal year, 114,336 volunteer hours were committed to North Carolina Main Street and Small Town Main Street downtown districts, valued at more than $2.5 million in time.

Shelby was selected as the 2017 host community because of its reputation for leadership in downtown revitalization and its role as a model for other communities over many years. Since the Great Recession, a combination of citizens and local government representatives have zeroed in on what sets Shelby apart. The musical legacies of native sons Don Gibson and Earl Scruggs are the community’s most unique assets. The Don Gibson Theatre in Uptown Shelby will serve as the headquarters for the conference and attendees will have the opportunity to visit the Earl Scruggs Center during the Uptown tours, conference breakout sessions, and in their free time. The LP Shelby public art project, historic architecture, and sidewalk dining under the live oaks will draw conference attendees down the street to explore the eclectic shops, restaurants, brewery and everything else that Shelby has to offer.

For more information about the 2017 NC Main Street Conference in Shelby, N.C. and to register, visit ncmainstreetcenter.com

In 2016, North Carolina Main Street downtown districts generated 493 net new businesses and 358 net new jobs. More information about the North Carolina Main Street Center and its programs is available online at nccommerce.com/MainStreet.

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