GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) – Seven cities and towns in the Piedmont Triad are booming, and their efforts to grow have earned them accreditation under the Main Street America program.

Four of them are from just two of the 14 counties in the region.

The North Carolina Main Street & Rural Planning Center at the North Carolina Department of Commerce on Monday named 46 communities whose central commercial district has met the criteria of having “a proven track record of successfully developing an asset-based economic development strategy, and implementation” in the 2022 Accredited Main Street America program, a release from the department said.

Two of the towns recognized are from Rockingham County – Eden and Reidsville – and two are from Surry County – Mount Airy and Elkin (which also bleeds into Wilkes County).

Lexington perennially makes the list from Davidson County. Asheboro in Randolph County and Burlington in Alamance County also were named. Mount Airy long has participated and been certified.

The program sets performance standards and benchmarks for measuring an individual Main Street community’s application. The basic criteria are “building meaningful and sustainable revitalization programs and include standards such as, fostering strong public-private partnerships, documenting programmatic progress, and actively preserving historic buildings,” the NC DOC’s release said.

The NC Main Street & Rural Planning Center evaluates each community annually to identify those that could meet the National Main Street Accreditation standards.

These include “building meaningful and sustainable revitalization programs and include standards such as, fostering strong public-private partnerships, supporting small and locally owned businesses, and actively preserving historic places, spaces, and cultural assets.”

Lexington Mayor Newell Clark
Lexington Mayor Newell Clark

“The N. C. Main Street program provides the tools for complete downtown redevelopment,” Asheboro Mayor Joan Cockman wrote in an email response to questions from WGHP. “Cities that are focused on their downtown, through the program, see more private investment dollars, a lower vacancy rate, and a greater sense of community. I encourage any city wishing to revitalize their downtown to join the program.”

She said the city and Asheboro’s Downtown Business Association worked together in 2017 to join the NC Main Street program and was accepted in July 2020 after the city completed “education and planning requirements.”

Long-term participants

Newell Clark, mayor of Lexington, says the program has been “tremendous” for his city and that it has been part of the program since 1995.

“Our per-acre tax base in the Main Street District is over twice what our shopping centers’ per-acre tax base is,” Clark said. “In Lexington our Main Street is the largest concentration of businesses in Davidson County. It is truly our economic core.”

Like Lexington, the town of Elkin has been recognized by this program since 1998, Mayor Sam Bishop said, and consistently achieves the certification.

“Downtown Elkin has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 2000,” Bishop said. “The Main Street Program has helped us plan for the future, while keeping track of and ensuring completion of annual achievements, public/private investment, and job numbers. The program has helped attract new businesses and job opportunities in our Downtown that has enhanced our increasingly popular tourism industry.”

Mount Airy Mayor Ron Niland says the hometown of Andy Griffith and the foundation for the fictional “Mayberry” has been part of this program for many years. The city’s downtown core is a tourism magnet and mimics the set of “The Andy Griffith Show” in many ways – or vice versa.

“We have a Municipal Service District that imposes a tax that helps develop and promote our downtown,” Niland said. Being part of the State’s program helps with technical support and education programs that help enhance the vitality of downtown. Your downtown is everyone’s second neighborhood and shapes the identity of one’s city.

“We have a downtown development director Lizzy Morrison has done an outstanding job of keeping our downtown healthy and vibrant.”

Other communities recognized

Other communities recognized under the program are Albemarle, Belmont, Bessemer City, Boone, Brevard, Cherryville, Clinton, Concord, Dunn, Edenton, Elizabeth City, Fuquay-Varina, Goldsboro, Henderson, Hendersonville, Hickory, Laurinburg, Lenoir, Lumberton, Marion, Monroe, Mooresville, Morehead City, Morganton, New Bern, Newton, Roanoke Rapids, Roxboro, Salisbury, Sanford, Shelby, Statesville, Sylva, Tarboro, Tryon, Valdese, Wake Forest, Washington, and Wilson.

“North Carolina’s economy depends on the thriving downtowns that support the overall vitality of their Main Street communities,” N.C. Commerce Secretary Machelle Baker Sanders said in a release announcing the communities. “This achievement is the result of the diligent work of these programs that help fuel prosperity across the entire state.”

Said Neville Hall, the mayor of Eden: “The city of Eden is pleased to be designated as a Main Street community as it affirms our commitment to building a diverse economic base, creating an inviting/inclusive atmosphere, building talent through leadership, and marketing for our merchants and small businesses.

“We are proud to be part of Main Street and believe in the strong partnerships it makes. We invite the public to visit any of our downtown areas.”