ASHEBORO, N.C. (WGHP) — The number of empty storefronts and buildings is shrinking across Asheboro.

“From 2020 to 2021 we saw a 62 percent increase in new business starts, year over year,” said Dr. Jonathan Thill, the creator of Venture Asheboro.

Thill believes the pandemic could be responsible. “We’re seeing an increase of small businesses starting and following their dream, and finding this moment in history as a time to find this self-empowerment that entrepreneurship provides.”

Thill started Venture Asheboro three years ago. It’s a co-working and coaching space to help small businesses get off the ground. He believes the people he works with are following their passion.

“A guy was a plant manager at a local manufacturing facility and he’s now creating affordable housing in our Black community,” said Thill.

Leaders with the Asheboro Chamber of Commerce and Randolph Community College believe their efforts through the online small business gym, multiple incubator projects, and other resources are giving people confidence.

“If you want your community to be one of those where there’s an opportunity and kids can see themselves in that community, it’s by elevating people that look like them by taking chances in their community,” said Thill.

New businesses are popping up across Randolph count, but downtown Asheboro is a hub.

According to leaders, there are 200 small businesses in the area and 100 of them are restaurants.

Leaders can’t keep up with the demand for a downtown storefront.

“We’re going to have a really dynamic and diverse small business community that people are really proud to call home,” said Thill.

The city could potentially create another small business space in the old Acme-McCrary building.

Leaders believe having a central space for owners to get resources and be able to meet with one another could be the thing that pushes their business forward.