Manteo commissioners explain what it means to be a North Carolina Main Street

Published 7:08 am Sunday, January 29, 2023

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Manteo commissioners met for a brief meeting on Wednesday, January 18 to explain what it means to be designated as a North Carolina Main Street community.

The town began the process in 2019 and was chosen as a Main Street community on July 1, 2022, joining 80 other communities throughout the state.

The benefit of the program to the Town of Manteo comes primarily through resources  – the state provides personnel support to the town as a Main Street, and the town is now eligible to apply for grants to help the community and local businesses.

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The town had to allot $5,000 in its budget for its own use for things like training and travel to implement the program, but aside from that there is no cost to apply or be accepted as a Main Street town.

The program focuses on economic development within the context of historic preservation, balancing preservation and prosperity, according to commissioner Sherry Wickstrom in her presentation to the board.

The process was begun by town manager Melissa Dickerson when she served as town planner, and now is overseen by program director Michele Bunce.

Wickstrom reminded commissioners that the town’s motto – Preserve and Prosper – “encapsulates what a Main Street America is.” Wickstrom then described the four strategies of the program: economic vitality, organization, design and promotion.

Wickstrom said that since COVID-19, the town is asking, “What are these new ways that people are buying and shopping? It’s not the same as it used to be.” Main Street communities help businesses work together to support each other, as well as provide training and resources to town staff as they support local businesses.

Under the umbrella of the North Carolina Department of Commerce, the N.C. Main Street & Rural Planning Center proves beneficial in bringing money into the state through bringing people in both to live or visit North Carolina.

Though the designation is recent, Manteo’s commitment to creating a vibrant downtown is nothing new. “We’ve been working on this for years,” Wickstrom said.