Lincolnton is among several North Carolina cities to recently be designated as an accredited National Main Street Program for 2012 through the National Trust Main Street Center.
In total, the state boasts 24 other local Main Street organizations to receive the national accreditation this year, according to a North Carolina Department of Commerce press release. This list includes Shelby, Newton, Hickory, Morganton and Lenoir.
Lincolnton Business and Community Development Director Brad Guth said Lincolnton has been nationally accredited each year since 1999, having become a Main Street organization in the mid-90s.
In reapplying annually, he noted that organizations must prove that they are doing everything required of them in meeting the specified standards. And, in doing so, he said it gives the local communities credibility.
“It’s certainly a special recognition, because not every community gets it,” Guth added, noting that the city is in “pretty select company.”
In addition to supporting locally owned, small businesses, the program also has a preservation aspect in that it encourages the use of existing, historical downtown buildings, said Guth.
“We congratulate this year’s nationally accredited Main Street programs,” N.C. Secretary of Commerce Keith Crisco stated in the release. “These cities and towns understand that a prosperous, sustainable community is only as healthy as its core. Even in these tough economic times, these cities are using a comprehensive strategy to keep their downtowns thriving.”
To qualify for the designations, communities must meet commercial district revitalization performance standards set by the National Trust Main Street Center.
The N.C. Main Street Center, which is overseen by the state Department of Commerce, “works to stimulate economic development within the context of historic preservation, using a comprehensive approach to downtown revitalization developed by the National Trust for Historic Preservation,” according to the program’s website.
The center evaluates the state’s organizations annually, working in partnership with the National Trust Main Street Center to identify the local programs that meet 10 performance standards that set the benchmarks for measuring an individual program’s application of the Main Street Four-Point Approach.
This approach, designed to improve all aspects of a downtown, includes four elements: organization, promotion, design and economic restructuring.
“North Carolina’s accredited Main Street programs are to be honored for their achievement,” Liz Parham, director of urban development at the N.C. Department of Commerce, noted in the release. “It’s important to recognize the efforts of local Main Street programs that work every day to bring jobs and businesses to their downtowns, and, in turn, strengthen the overall economy of their communities.”
Communities voluntarily choose to apply for the program and, as a result, may reap some benefits from their participation.
The release states that North Carolina cities and towns involved in the program have seen some growth despite the sluggish economy, experiencing a net gain of 216 businesses and 787 jobs during the past fiscal year.
Additionally, 77 business expansions and 247 major building renovations took place during this time period, with programs reporting more than $211 million in combined public and private investment.
Guth said that locally, since becoming a Main Street program, downtown Lincolnton has experienced a 90 percent occupancy rate and $26 million in investment.
There are 764 Main Street communities in the United States and other countries that have earned national accreditation this year, noted the release.