2020 NC Main Street Conference: March 10-12

The NC Department of Commerce and The NC Main Street & Rural Planning Center would like to thank New Bern, NC for being our 2020 host community. Attendees were able to see outstanding examples of a vibrant and resilient downtown. Thanks for your hospitality and for all you did to make our 2020 conference a huge success!

2020 NC Main Street Impact Report

2020 marks the 40th Anniversary of the NC Main Street program working in collaboration with local communities to improve the economic conditions of downtown.  In celebration of this milestone, the N.C. Commerce Main Street & Rural Planning Center contracted with PlaceEconomics, a consulting firm that works at the nexus of historic preservation and economic development, to conduct an analysis of the impact of the NC Main Street Program over the past forty years.  The following report conveys the results of that study that was completed in March 2020.

2020 Keynote Speakers

Donovan Rypkema



The Behind the Scenes Impact of the NC Main Street Program

Tuesday: 3:15-4:00

2020 marks the 40th Anniversary of the NC Main Street program.  The state’s designated Main Street and Small Town Main Street communities have experienced $3 billion in investments and a net gain of more than 27,000 jobs, but what are the economic, social, and physical impacts of these investments? Donovan Rypkema, principal with PlaceEconomics, spent six months conducting an analysis “behind the statistical data” and will report his findings. With its analysis of jobs and businesses as well as property and buildings, this session will provide attendees with a thorough understanding of the economic role that downtowns play in North Carolina’s economy.

About Donavan Rypkema:

Donovan Rypkema is principal of PlaceEconomics and president of Heritage Strategies International. Working at the nexus of historic preservation and economic development, Rypkema has undertaken assignments in 49 US States and more than 50 countries. He is the author of The Economics of Historic Preservation and teaches preservation economics at the University of Pennsylvania. In 2012 he was the recipient of the Crowninshield Award from the National Trust. The Crowninshield is the nation’s highest preservation award and is presented for lifetime contributions to the field of historic preservation.

Ilana Preuss


Recast City LLC

Small-Scale Manufacturing & Main Street: The Secret Sauce

Wednesday: 9:15-10:00

Too many places are stuck with a set of economic development strategies left over from the 1980s. People and places are being left behind — but it doesn’t have to be that way. Join this conversation to learn about how we can flip the model on economic development and do it a better way. An approach that invests in people and places. An approach that focuses on actions today and not just long-term plans. This talk will discuss the secret sauce to build a strong and resilient economy through concrete steps that include entrepreneurship, why (and how) to focus on small-scale manufacturing businesses as a catalyst, and how new real estate models for main street can be essential to success.

About Ilana Preuss:

Ilana Preuss is the Founder of Recast City LLC, a consulting firm that works with real estate developers, city and other civic leaders to integrate manufacturing space for small-scale producers into redevelopment projects and place-based economic development. She is passionate about making great places and sees that small-scale manufacturers are a missing piece in today’s mixed-use development and commercial property repositioning.


In 2017, Ms. Preuss co-authored, Made in PLACE: Small-scale manufacturing and placemaking, in partnership with Smart Growth America and funded by a grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration, and she co-authored, Discovering Your City’s Maker Economy, a field guide for National League of Cities, in partnership with NLC, Etsy, and the Urban Manufacturing Alliance. She also authored a chapter in Creative Placemaking, a publication by the National Endowment for the Arts.

2020 Plenary Sessions

The Fab 40

Over the last forty years these transformational projects have not only created investment, jobs, and business development, but they also changed mindsets and spurred community pride.


Liz Parham

& Rodney Swink

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The Nexus

Preservation Justice, Economic Justice, and Environmental Justice; all things many of our downtown communities face in their struggle to revitalize. Let's discuss failures and successes.


Irvin M. Henderson

2020 Toolkit Sessions

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    10 Tips for Successful Grant Writing

    This session will break down the barriers, build grant writing capacity for communities of all sizes, and offer best practices and tips on how to write a successful grant application. 


    Sherry Long, Kitty Dougoud & Viki Dekle

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    From Curb to Counter: Courting Your Clientele

    Learn about the positive impact that  façade improvements, windows displays, signage, appealing lighting, and seasonal plantings can have on downtown businesses and districts.


    Jo Ramsay Leimenstoll,

    Monica Davis & Kista Mansell

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    Put Some Tools in Your Downtown Toolbox

    Some towns make downtown redevelopment look easy while others seem to struggle to get projects done. Get your toolbox ready now and your next project will be a success.


    Sharon Jablonski, Karen Smith,

    Reid Thomas & John Wood

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    Economic Development – Planning for Success!

    Strategic economic development planning provides the blueprint for success. This session will explore how to plan for, conduct, implement, and evaluate your strategic plan.


    Amy Suggs

    & Bruce Naegelen

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    Sustainable Organizations - The Foundation of Success

    This session is designed to help start-up organizations as well as long-time, but possibly floundering, organizations consider their foundations for downtown success.


    Sherry Adams

    & Chuck Halsall

2020 Break-Out Sessions

  • Saving the Taylor – A Community  Project

    Saving a theater is a community initiative. This session will share how Edenton cultivated community to save its Taylor Theatre.


    Jennifer Harriss

    & Samuel Dixon

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    Lessons Learned in

    Business Recruitment

    This session will outline the steps to develop a plan for business recruitment and conduct a deep dive for a few key buildings to leverage big results.


    Hilary Greenberg, Jeff Emory

    & Stephanie Rzonca

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    Creative Alley Connections

    Explore how Main Street programs around the state have  built creative alley connections that are places you want to walk through or even hang out in for a while.


    Jenny Boulware, Abby Nelson

    Lisa Rueh & Missy Matthews

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    Basic to Bizarre: Events that Get You Noticed

     Let’s talk about how to create an event that is authentic to your community and kicks even hum-drum annual events up a notch!


    Freddie Killough

    & Susan Kellum

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    Social Media:

    Lead by Example

    Understanding some basic philosophies and practicing some simple techniques can drastically improve your engagement, both on social media and in your daily affairs.


    BJ Murphy

2020 Break-Out Sessions

  • Using the Data to GROW Your Investments

    This session is intended for Main Street directors and their staff that serve as “feet on the ground” to encourage people to invest in downtown using the data Excel Spreadsheet. Download Sheet


    Donovan Rypkema

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    Fill Your Plate & Feed Your Business

    The speakers will discuss branding, website design, social media marketing, advertising, public relations, and collateral, plus teach you how they work together to ensure success on a limited budget.


    Leniece Lane

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    Is Art Economic Development?

    Get an overview of how  public displays are creating both increased revenue opportunities by attracting foot traffic to downtowns and positive quantifiable economic data directly related to the art installations.


    Kimberly Van Dyk, 

    Rebekah McGee, Lew Holloway & Charles Halsall

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    Creating Great Streets

    Great streets create a sense of place that is unique to the community, and a place where you want to live. This session will explore tips that you can take home to ignite your streets and attract people to downtown.


    Dan Lambert

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    Marketing Main Street

    Explore a new initiative – the Main to Main Trail, new partnership efforts with existing trails, and a more robust effort in North Carolina to market the Main Street brand.


    Liz Parham, Sherry Adams 

    & Laura Gaylord

2020 Break-Out Sessions

  • Food, Glorious Food Anchors

    From food incubators, production, farm to table, and dining districts, see how other communities have tapped into the economic benefits of local foods.


    Monica Miller

    & Becky Bowen

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    Make Downtown a Destination

    Through Storytelling

    In this session, marketing and branding expert, David Joyner, will share the why and how to effectively reinvent the perception of your Main Street District.


    David Joyner

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    Creating Vibrant Downtown Districts With Wayfinding, Identity, and Branding

    This session will explore the essentials of planning a wayfinding sign program and how the process can lead to better civic brands and memorable destinations


    Buzz Bizzell

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    Cultivating a Champion Developer

    Downtown redevelopment is a bit different than building from the ground up. Attendees will learn how to grow developers within the community from the ground up.


    Lizzie Morrison

    & Gene Rees

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    Board Development:  Make It Fun and They will Come

    Are you and your program suffering from BOARDom?  Strengthen and grow your board and volunteer base with a few best practices!


    Julie Metz & Kaylynn Horn

Awards & NC Main Street Champions

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The NC Main Street & Rural Planning Center is a Main Street America™ Coordinating Program. The 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. As a Main Street America™ Coordinating Program, The NC Main Street & Rural Planning Center is part of a powerful, grassroots network consisting of over 40 Coordinating Programs and over 1,200 neighborhoods and communities across the country committed to creating high-quality places and to building stronger communities through preservation-based economic development
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