Giving Back to Downtown Revitalization

The enthusiasm behind the City of Graham’s application is what made them the 2017 Creative Give Back winner. Graham asked for our help in developing a framework for the implementation and operation of a Community Development/Revolving Loan Fund and programs to support entrepreneurship initiatives. One goal of our Creative Give Back program is to work on projects that can be replicated. What we learned in the Graham project has applicability to many small towns across North Carolina. Read the full report to get ideas for your community.

Downtown is big business for Graham. We estimated the economic impact of the businesses in a portion of downtown to be 1,229 direct and indirect jobs, and more than $69 million in direct economic impact. If you haven’t quantified the economic impact of your downtown, we suggest you do. It shows leaders how important downtown is to the local economy. In the case of Graham, it is the equivalent to a large recruitment project. It is easier to ask for investments in downtown and grant programs when it is placed in the context of other, often more high profile, economic development projects.

After gathering local input, conducting analysis, and researching best practices, we recommended a set of new grants, incentives, financing tools, economic gardening, marketing, and entrepreneurship initiatives that will support vacant building redevelopment and entrepreneurial start-ups. To give one example, a new program we discovered is GrowthWheel in Roanoke, VA. The city offers scholarships for entrepreneurs to complete the training program. The idea is that with more education on the front end, more business start-ups will succeed. Another is the Vacant Abandoned Building Incentive Program in Columbia, SC.

The new programs will hopefully spark entrepreneurs and developers to invest in Graham. However, the city already has the most important key to success – passionate leaders. Entrepreneurs and city staff are aligned, working on many initiatives that will benefit not only entrepreneurs and small businesses, but citizens in general.

The next Creative Give Back application process will be announced on January 2. Put your thinking cap on. What will be your creative idea for 2018?

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