It's no secret that Kinston, NC was struggling. Agricultural growth was stymied plus manufacturing jobs had long left, and their exit had invited a consistently slumping economy, minimum to none economic investment, crime, dilapidation, and a substantial population loss. However, local leaders, returning and lifelong residents (ie. Chef Vivian Howard) had hope that change would have to inevitably come. It did, walked straight into Downtown Kinston, pulled up its sleeves, settled in, and never left. Like many rural towns throughout America, a collective focus on Revitalizing historic downtown areas via Main Street growth, which included new Dining options, Restaurants, Local Brew, Artistic Ops, and Re-branding, created a New economy...and a lifeline for a strained rural community.
Fun + Innovation are Implemented to drive Growth
Many other areas have found success in downtown investments, taking different actions but notably similar approaches. Local leaders are creating strong downtown commissions or organizations whose sole focus is to aggressively market downtown real estate and business opportunities, leaning towards trendy dining options and...of course...beer. Local breweries have become a magnet for outside growth, tax dollars, festivals, and tourists. From Rocky Mount, NC to Warrenton, NC, breweries are being courted and often with the enticement of tax incentives. It's not just the beer. Art has found a foothold in newly-thriving town centers, as leaders have partnered with private citizens with innovative ideas. As in Wilson, NC, where the Wilson Whirligig Park and Museum has become a National draw, creating a booming economic foundation as tourists seasonally visit.
Photo: The Considerate USA - Renovation, Historic Downtown Warrenton, NC
Federal Support is Encouraging a Successful Trend
The downtown fix is not a one-size-fits-all. Some rural leaders are still balancing between progressive actions and traditional cultures, the latter some see as stumbling blocks to necessary change. Still, the trend to approach growth from the center out is being promulgated by the government, as federal agencies such as the USDA and the EPA allocate resources and data to support initiatives that further encourage Rural Downtown revitalization and thought.