The NC Main Street program provides downtown strategic economic development planning and project-specific technical assistance to 81 communities in the Main Street programs. It offers a robust calendar of training and educational opportunities which includes the country's largest statewide downtown revitalization annual conference. NC Main Street initiatives build local capacity for downtown revitalization, small business development, and the rehabilitation of historic properties.
About NC Main Street
The NC Main Street & Rural Planning Center is the Main Street America coordinating program for the state of NC. NC Main Street staff are charged by the NC Department of Commerce to facilitate downtown economic development, using the Main Street America Four Point Approach, in designated communities.
NC Main Street Staff Provide:
- Strategic downtown economic development planning and technical assistance
- Main Street program guidance
- Downtown development education and training
Who We Serve
Liz Parham, CMSM
Director, NC Main Street and Rural Planning Center
Office: (919) 814-4658
Cell: (919) 805-2067
NC Main Street Staff
Sherry Adams, CMSM
Manager, NC Main Street Program
Cell: (828) 747-8218
NC Main Street Conference and Downtown Services Coordinator
Office: (919) 814-4726
Cell: (984) 222-5292
Main Street Program Specialist
Cell: (252) 214-5132
Main Street Program Specialist
Cell: (984) 365-0342
Main Street Program Specialist
Morehead City, NC
Cell: (910) 530-0278
Downtown Development Specialist
Cell: (919) 817-7086
Main Street Project Manager
Cell: (984) 800-4695
Main Street Grants Administrator
Morehead City, NC
Cell: (919) 817-3999
About NC Main Street
The NC Main Street & Rural Planning Center is North Carolina's state coordinating program for Main Street America. The NC Main Street staff are charged by the NC Department of Commerce to facilitate downtown economic development, using the Main Street America Four Point Approach, in designated communities. The Main Street Approach™ is centered around economic development strategies that will transform downtown. These strategies articulate a focused path to revitalizing or strengthening a downtown economy. Designated NC Main Street community's work is organized around the Four Point Approach: Economic Vitality, Design, Promotion, and Organization.
The selection process is competitive. The NC Main Street & Rural Planning Center's Downtown Associate Community is the first step towards the NC Main Street Designation. Communities are selected every other year via a competitive application process. North Carolina municipalities, with an identifiable traditional downtown business district and a certified population under 50,000 are eligible to apply to the Center for services under the Downtown Associate Community program. Selected communities will receive three years of downtown revitalization technical assistance services from the NC Main Street & Rural Planning Center and may have the opportunity to move up to Main Street designation upon successful completion of the program.
Designated NC Main Street Communities
2023 Accredited Programs
The Main Street America accreditation process evaluates Main Street programs according to 10 performance standards and provides national accreditation to those that meet these standards. Congratulations to the communities below who met the criteria to receive this special designation.
2023 Affiliate Programs
Main Street America™ Affiliates are programs that have demonstrated a commitment to achieving meaningful economic, social, physical, and organizational improvements in downtowns or neighborhood commercial districts. These are organizations that have committed to comprehensive revitalization and undertake ongoing efforts to achieve meaningful community outcomes.
About the State Designation
The NC Small Town Main Street program began in 2008. The first Small Town Main Street communities were West Jefferson, and Roseboro. As of 2015 the state has not accepted any new communities into the Small Town Main Street program. State staff are working with the current program participants to move them up to Main Street when communities have shown they are able to meet the requirements of the program.
Designated NC Small Town Main Street Communities
The NC Main Street & Rural Planning Center's Downtown Associate Community program (DAC) launched in May 2015. The DAC program is the first step towards the NC Main Street Designation. State staff work with eligible communities to equip them with the tools to build a sustainable organizational foundation and conduct strategic economic development planning, which strengthens their downtown development efforts.
The NC Main Street & Rural Planning Center selects communities every other year via a competitive application process. North Carolina municipalities, with an identifiable traditional downtown business district and a certified population under 50,000 not already designated as a Main Street or Small Town Main Street community are eligible to apply to the Center for services under the Downtown Associate Community program. Selected communities will receive three years of downtown revitalization technical assistance services from the NC Main Street & Rural Planning Center and may have the opportunity to move up to Main Street designation upon successful completion of the program.
Current Downtown Associate Community Communities
Benefits for NC Main Street Communities
North Carolina Main Street communities’ benefit from the following:
- Communities selected to participate in the Main Street program become partners with the North Carolina Department of Commerce, NC Main Street & Rural Planning Center in a long-term, asset-based economic development effort that has proven to have a positive impact on investment and job creation.
- Main Street communities are limited in number and therefore receive focused and personal attention from NC Main Street staff.
- North Carolina communities are selected through a competitive process and only a few are designated; therefore, Main Street designation is an honor bestowed upon only a few special communities.
- In the first several years of a local Main Street program, the state of North Carolina invests approximately $100,000 in on-site visits, training, and technical assistance. After the initial start-up phase, the state annually invests approximately $5,000 in each Main Street community in the form of ongoing town-specific technical assistance, and statewide and on-site training for directors and volunteers.
- Main Street communities are eligible to attend and participate in the NC Main Street Conference, NC Main Street Basic Training, Board and Committee Training, NC Main Street Directors’ Meetings, Biannual Regional Meetings, and subject specific workshops.
- Designated North Carolina Main Street communities receive two free registrations to the North Carolina Main Street Conference held in March.
- The North Carolina Main Street program staff guides designated communities through a strategic planning process which helps communities create a vision, develop economic development strategies that will transform downtown, and produce action plans so that limited resources are focused, and results are magnified.
- The North Carolina Main Street staff guide participating communities through board development, volunteer development and downtown director training.
- The North Carolina Main Street staff provide guidance and support to communities on ways to find and develop financial resources.
- Property and business owners in Main Street cities receive free building exterior design recommendations from design specialists at the UNC-Greensboro Department of Interior Architecture, in collaboration with the NC Main Street & Rural Planning Center staff.
- The North Carolina Main Street staff provide guidance and training on the best practices for leveraging tourism based economic development in association with the NC Main-to-Main Trail, an initiative of the NC Main Street & Rural Planning Center.
- North Carolina Main Street staff has extensive experience in organizational development and nonprofit management, historic preservation, building rehabilitation, investment tax credits, incentive programs, tourism development, marketing, image building, special event development, communications, and a range of other pertinent areas.
- The North Carolina Main Street staff is among the nation’s leading authorities on downtown development with experience helping North Carolina towns with revitalization challenges.
- The North Carolina Main Street staff assists communities with Main Street Director recruitment process.
- The North Carolina Main Street staff conducts an annual program assessment and review of each Main Street program.
- The North Carolina Main Street staff conducts an annual budget and salary analysis of Main Street programs.
- The North Carolina Main Street staff conducts an annual statistical data collection and analysis.
- North Carolina Main Street communities may use the Main Street trademarks on materials designed to promote the work of their program in collaboration with the State of North Carolina and the National Main Street Center.
- The North Carolina Main Street network possesses some of the most experienced downtown development professionals in the country.
- Main Street communities may take advantage of and participate in a special network of Main Street cities statewide and nationally, with over 1,200 communities across the nation, and 45 city, state, and regional Coordinating Programs, that participate in the Main Street program. This allows them to learn best practices, techniques, and strategies for downtown development.
- When available, Main Street communities are eligible to apply for downtown revitalization funding programs to assist small business development and property rehabilitation.
- When available, Nationally Accredited Main Street communities are eligible to apply for funding programs through the National Main Street Center.
- The NC Main Street & Rural Planning Center maintains and distributes a funding guide of federal, state, corporate and foundation sources commonly used for funding downtown projects.
- Through the North Carolina Main Street program, communities can identify resource people, consultants, and specialists on topics of interest to the community.
- Since 1980 when the program began, Main Street communities in North Carolina have had over $4.08 billion in new investment in their downtowns, a net gain of over 7,151 new businesses and a net gain of over 30,234 new jobs. This is serious economic development!
- The North Carolina Main Street staff facilitate statewide economic impact studies and collects data to determine trends in Main Street and Small Town Main Street communities.
Marketing & Recognition:
- Designated North Carolina Main Street communities are eligible to receive statewide recognition through the North Carolina Main Street Awards and Main Street Champions programs.
- In addition, designated communities are eligible for recognition by the National Main Street Center as a Nationally Accredited or Affiliate Main Street community.
- North Carolina Main Street communities receive marketing and recognition offered through the NC Main-to-Main Trail, an initiative of the NC Main Street & Rural Planning Center.
- Nationally Accredited Main Street communities are eligible to apply for national recognition through the Great American Main Street Awards® (GAMSA), a program of the National Main Street Center.
- North Carolina Main Street communities receive publicity about their programs through press releases distributed through the N.C. Department of Commerce, NC Main Street & Rural Planning Center updates and annual reports, Main Street presentations, and the NC Main Street social media sites.
*Note – in the event of a natural disaster or pandemic event, programs and services may be changed, conducted virtually, or cancelled in accordance to recommended guidelines from the Center for Disease Control and NC State Emergency Management.
Participate in all services provided to the local community by the NC Main Street & Rural Planning Center.
Dedicated Paid Staff:
- A full-time -40 hours/week paid professional Main Street Director, that is dedicated to downtown and that will coordinate and facilitate the work of the program.
- Communities with a population of 5,001-9,999 MAY employ two or more persons that equal one or more full-time equivalent position(s). One of the positions must be designated as the director.
- Communities with a population of 5,000 or less MAY employ a part-time -20+ hours/week position paid professional Main Street Director.
- Be paid a salary consistent with those of other community development professionals within the city, state, or region in which the program operates.
- Be adequately trained —and should continue learning about revitalization techniques and about issues affecting traditional commercial districts.
- Have a written job description that correlates with the roles and responsibilities of a Main Street Director.
- Have a local performance review on an annual basis.
- Obtain a 501(c) 3, 4, or 6 nonprofit designation OR be designated as a department of the local municipal government.
- Establish broad-based support for the commercial district revitalization process, with strong support from both the public and private sectors.
- The Main Street organization should have the active participation of various stakeholders at the committee and board levels.
- Participants should contribute financial, in-kind, and volunteer support for the revitalization program.
- Participants should also look for, and act on, opportunities to make connections between other programs with which they are involved and the Main Street revitalization effort so that, by doing their own work a little smarter, or in amore integrated way, other programs help further the revitalization process.
- The program should include an ongoing process for volunteer recruitment, orientation, and recognition, constantly refreshing its pool of volunteers and involving new people each year.
- The revitalization program has broad-based philosophical support from the community.
- Municipal government demonstrates a philosophical commitment to commercial district revitalization.
- Establish and maintain an active Board of Directors and Committees using the Main Street Four-Point Approach® and develop a comprehensive Main Street Work Plan using the Main Street Four-Point Approach®. Main Street revitalization by nature is a community-driven process. Therefore, community members must take an active role in leading and implementing positive change. While the Director is responsible for facilitating the work of volunteers, this staff member is not tasked with single-handedly revitalizing the commercial district. The direct involvement of an active board of directors and committees are keys to success. If a Main Street organization is housed within another entity (e.g., a community development corporation), it is still important to have its own board of directors and committee structure.
- The board is a working, functional board that understands its roles and responsibilities and is willing to put forth the effort to make the program succeed.
- Committee members assume responsibility for the implementation of the work plan.
- The program has a dedicated governing body, its own rules of operation, its own budget, and its own bylaws, and is empowered to carry out Main Street's mission, even if the Main Street program is a part of a larger organization.
- The board has well-managed, regular monthly meetings, with an agenda and regular distribution of minutes.
- Committees have regularly scheduled monthly meetings with an agenda that addresses the committee work plan.
Annual Plan of Work:
- Establish an annual work plan/planning process for downtown. A comprehensive annual work plan provides a detailed blueprint for the Main Street program's activities; reinforces the program's accountability both within the organization and in the broader community; and provides measurable objectives by which the program can track its progress.
- The work plan should contain a balance of activities in each of the four broad program areas that comprise the Main Street approach —Economic Vitality, Quality Design, Effective Promotion, and Sustainable Organization.
- The work plan should contain measurable objectives, including timelines, budgets, desired outcomes, and specific responsibilities.
- The work plan should be reviewed, and a new one should be developed annually.
- Ideally, the full board and committees will be involved in developing the annual work plan. At a minimum, the full board should adopt/approve the annual work plan.
- The work plan should distribute work activities and tasks to a broad range of volunteers and program participants.
- There has been significant progress in each of the four points based on the work plan submitted for the previous year.
Historic Preservation Ethic:
- Adopt and exhibit a Historic Preservation Ethic and design management program. Historic preservation is central to the Main Street program's purpose and is what makes historic and traditional commercial districts authentic places. Historic preservation involves saving, rehabilitating, and finding new uses for existing buildings, as well as intensifying the uses of the existing buildings, through building improvement projects and policy and regulatory changes that make it easier to develop property within the commercial district.
- The program has, or is working toward putting in place, an active and effective design management program (which may include financial incentives, design assistance, regulatory relief, design review, education, and other forms of management).
- The program encourages appropriate building renovation, restoration, and rehabilitation projects.
- When faced with a potential demolition or substantial structural alteration of a significant, historic, or traditional building in the Main Street district, the program actively works to prevent the demolition or alteration, including working with appropriate partners at the state, local, or national level to attempt to stay or alter the proposed activity; developing alternative strategies for the building's use; and/or educating local leaders about the importance of retaining existing buildings and maintaining their architectural integrity.
- The program works to find creative adaptive use, financing, and physical rehabilitation solutions for preserving old buildings.
- The program recognizes the importance of planning and land-use policies that support the revitalization of existing commercial centers and works toward putting planning and land-use policies in place that make it as easy (if not easier) to develop property within the commercial district as it is outside the commercial district. Similarly, it ensures that financing, technical assistance, and other incentives are available to facilitate the process of attracting investment to the historic commercial district.
- The program builds public awareness for the commercial district's historic buildings and for good design.
Vision and Mission:
- Demonstrate an established vision for downtown and a mission that defines the role of the organization that will manage the downtown initiative.
- The organization has an appropriate written mission statement.
- The mission statement is reviewed annually and updated as appropriate.
- The organization has an appropriate written vision statement for downtown that is reviewed annually and updated as appropriate. The vision statement should define the economic potential of downtown.
- Fund the local Main Street program through both public and private partnerships at a level allowing for full implementation of the program based on the Four-Point Approach® and the adopted annual work plan.
- The Main Street program's budget should be adequate to achieve the program's goals. The dollar amount that is "adequate" for a program budget may vary.
- The budget should be specifically dedicated to revitalizing the commercial district.
- The Main Street program's budget should contain funds adequate to cover the salary and benefits of staff; office expenses; travel; professional development; and committee activities.
- Revenue sources are varied and broad-based, including appropriate support from the municipal government.
- There is a strategy in place to help maintain stable funding.
- There is a process in place for financial oversight and management.
- Regular monthly financial reports are made by the treasurer to the board.
Reporting and Other Requirements:
- Program Assessments (MS/STMS)–January of each year
- Annual Agreements (MS/STMS): June of each year
- National Main Street Sublicense Agreement(MS): June of each year
- Program Statistics (MS/STMS): July of each year
- Award Nominations (MS/STMS): OPTIONAL –October of each year
- Champion Nominations (MS): OPTIONAL –October of each year
Pathway to Main Street Designation:
The NC Main Street & Rural Planning Center selects communities every other year for the Downtown Associate Community program (DAC), via a competitive application process.
The Downtown Associate Community program is the process through which North Carolina communities may become affiliated with the NC Main Street program. The Downtown Associate Community program is based on the National Main Street Center's downtown revitalization model using the Main Street Approach™. State staff work with eligible communities to equip them with the tools to build a sustainable organizational foundation and conduct strategic economic development planning, which strengthens their downtown development efforts.
- Applications and Instructions Sent to Communities: Closed-Next Round TBD
- Applications Due: Closed: Closed-Next Round TBD
- Site Visits: Closed-Next Round TBD
- Notifications Sent Out: Closed-Next Round TBD
Required DAC Information Sessions
For communities interested in becoming a designated NC Main Street community you MUST apply to the Downtown Associate Community (DAC) program and attend ONE of TWO Downtown Associate Community program information sessions and have a City/Town representative such as the City/Town Manager, Mayor, or City/Town Planner attend.
Closed-Next Round TBD