Did you know… From July 2011 to June 2017, Lenoir County has invested 288.6 million in economic development and created 1,236 jobs during the process?

 The Challenge

As municipalities in North Carolina lose residents due to a decrease in demand for certain industries, cities are searching for innovative ways to recruit new people to the area. Kinston was struggling to maintain city networks after the 2008 financial crisis, and the decline of their tobacco industry. People had lost their sense of community, and their ties to the area. Kinston was searching for an ideal solution and found that the best way for them to recruit new residents while retaining old ones was through downtown development.

 The Solution

Kinston is as a unique example for rural areas looking to reinvigorate their communities and economies. Small businesses in the area have partnered with the local leaders to create changes that will benefit the town in a variety of ways. One such example of this is Kinston’s Planning Department revolving loan program that allows for entrepreneurs to come to the area, while also contributing to the economy of the city.

The Network that Worked

Kinston has relied on its networks to push downtown development forward. Community members note that it has been so successful due to the involvement of government leaders, main street directors, business and property owners, developers, and anyone willing to take on a leadership role. In a town of roughly 20,000 people this has led to a high investment of those living there. Public-private partnerships have created a downtown that many people are excited to move to, baby boomers and millennials alike.

Businesses in Kinston have highlighted that the most crucial part of their involvement has been remaining complementary to each other, and not becoming overly competitive. Each business sees themselves as part of a unit in the downtown district, working to build others up, instead of tearing them down. This uplifting nature has allowed businesses to thrive and remain in the area, which furthers the economy and investment in the downtown district.

The Learning

There have been a variety of takeaways for Kinston that any municipality looking to further their downtown development will need to know. First, any city looking to do this will need to have a full understanding of their existing assets, as well as the values of the residents. Knowing your assets allows you to get a clear picture of what development could turn into, and what needs to be updated in the process. Additionally, if development is not something your residents and business owners are looking for, it will be difficult to get folks on board.

Not only will understanding the values of the existing community be essential for the process, but you will also want to gain an understanding of populations coming to the area. What will stand out to them about your community? Lastly, public-private partnerships will need to be created and utilized throughout the process. Kinston’s partnerships have allowed the city to grow in unique ways, and to thrive in the economic climate today.