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NC Main Street & Rural Planning Center

​The NC Main Street & Rural Planning Center works in regions, counties, cities, towns, downtown districts, and in designated North Carolina Main Street communities, to inspire place-making through building asset-based economic development strategies that achieve measurable results such as investment, business growth, and jobs.

The NC Main Street & Rural Planning Center administers programs within the Rural Economic Development Division of the N.C. Department of Commerce.

Hendersonville, NC Drone Shot

Rural NC Community Economic Development Resources & Training  

The NC Main Street & Rural Planning Center is tasked to provide technical assistance to rural
NC communities.  This training website helps meet the needs of the communities that we serve.

We hope communities will utilize these resources to facilitate training with their own staff and volunteers.  

Main Street America Logo

Main Street America
NC Main Street

Main Street America

Main Street America™ is a movement. Main Street America has been helping revitalize older and historic commercial districts for more than 40 years. Today it is a network of more than 1,600 neighborhoods and communities, rural and urban and is the leading voice for preservation-based economic development and community revitalization across the country. Made up of small towns, mid-sized communities, and urban commercial districts, Main Street America represents the broad diversity that makes this country so unique. Working together, the programs that make up the Main Street America network help to breathe new life into the places people call home.  

  • Main Street America is a mark of distinction. It is a seal, recognizing that participating programs, organizations, and communities are part of a national movement with a proven track record for celebrating community character, preserving local history, and generating impressive economic returns. Since 1980, over 2,000 communities have been part of Main Street, bringing renewed energy and activity to America’s downtowns and commercial districts, securing $61 billion in new investment creating more than 525,000 net new jobs and rehabilitating 251,000 buildings. 

  • Main Street America is a time-tested strategy. Main Street America communities are encouraged to make use of a time-tested approach, known as the Main Street Approach. The Main Street Approach is rooted in a commitment to broad-based community engagement, a holistic understanding of the factors that impact the quality of life in a community, and strategic focus on the core principles of downtown and neighborhood revitalization: Economic Vitality, Design, Promotion, and Organization. 

  • Learn More:  Main Street America Homepage.

North Carolina 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.  

  • Learn More: NC Main Street & Rural Planning Center 

NC Main Street community map image
NC Main Street
Rural Planning
Rusty Brick Wall

NC Rural Planning Program


Part of the NC Main Street & Rural Planning Center (MS&RP Center), the Rural Planning program works with municipalities, county governments, and other organizations in rural areas to provide strategic economic development planning and implementation services, technical support, and training. Such services help communities prepare for and respond to potential economic growth opportunities in ways that improve quality of life and prosperity, build community capacity, and maintain the character of rural areas. Rural Planning program staff located in North Carolina’s eight Prosperity Zones facilitate economic development planning for communities and have developed relationships with local leaders in all 100 counties. Prosperity Zone planners work in regions throughout the state: the West (Sylva), Northwest (Morganton), Piedmont‐Triad (Winston‐Salem), Southwest (Albemarle), North Central (Clayton), Sandhills/ South Central (Fayetteville), Northeast (Greenville), and Southeast (Morehead City). Other Rural Planning program staff are based in Asheville, Raleigh, and Wilmington.

Map of NC Prosperity Zones

NC Main to Main Trail

The NC Main to Main Trail is a unique way to experience North Carolina communities. Since 1980, the State of North Carolina has been selecting cities and towns of all sizes to carry the distinction as designated North Carolina Main Street communities. These communities are actively engaged in the Main Street America network and are following the Main Street Approach™ to revitalize their downtown districts. From the Great Smokies and the Blue Ridge Mountains, the urban growth of the Piedmont, to the eastern inner banks to the coastal plains, Main Street

communities are destinations. Each downtown district features architectural treasures from typical commercial buildings, governmental icons, and cultural attractions. Locally owned shops, restaurants, and spirits offer the communities many unique options. Stroll the tree-lined streets to take in the flavor of the district and gain the perspective of why the locals call their community home.  

The NC Main to Main Trail leads you through the state’s designated Main Street communities, highlighting each town’s best downtown and outdoor experiences, and providing links to the local Main Street program,  VisitNC and the local tourism websites, so that you don’t miss a thing as you trek the NC Main to Main Trail.

Discover the Main-to-Main Trail

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North Carolina Award Winning

Projects & People


Annual Awards:


Each year at the Annual NC Main Street Conference, The NC Department of Commerce and The NC Main Street & Rural Planning Center announce the NC Main Street Award Winners.  The NC Main Street Awards recognize the hard work, dedication, and success of our NC Main Street communities and their achievements in the following categories:

  • ECONOMIC VITALITY:  Best Economic Development Incentive Program, Best Adaptive Reuse Project, Best Infill Building Project, Best Upper Story Redevelopment, Best Endangered Properties Rescue Effort, Best Business Retention, Expansion, or Recruitment Effort

  • DESIGN: Best Facade Rehabilitation Project for More than $15,000, Best Facade Rehabilitation Project for Less than $15,000, Best Public Building Improvement, Best Outdoor Space Improvement, Best Historic Rehabilitation Project

  • PROMOTION: Best Downtown Special Event or Event Series, Best Retail Promotion, Best Image-Building Campaign

  • ORGANIZATION: Best Public-Private Partnership in Downtown Revitalization, Best Healthy Community Initiative, Best Economic Recovery Initiative, Best Social Justice Initiative, Best Public Relations Effort, Best Fundraising Effort, Best Volunteer Recruitment, Training, and Recognition

NC Main Street Champions:


In addition to the NC Main Street Awards, The NC Main Street & Rural Planning Center annually recognizes the efforts of dedicated individuals who have contributed to the success of the local programs across our state. Each NC Main Street program may designate one individual, couple, or organization as their community’s NC Main Street Champion. A non-competitive award, designation honors those persons who have made extraordinary contributions to their downtown.

We are proud of these award winning projects and the champion that make a significant impact in the communities where they live.

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