In years gone by, Main Street often served as the commercial center for many small towns. Whether a farmer bringing goods and crops to market, or a banker issuing loans for the growth of homes and businesses, these downtown communities were the hub of business life. However, with the rise of the automobile, the need for a central location for business and industry waned. As families were able to travel for shopping, dining, or work, the business core of each municipality spread to the most vehicle-friendly areas. Shopping malls and outlet centers took the place of Main Street and many communities saw their once vibrant Main Street communities abandoned for the “shiny and new” of the mini-mall. While a troubling blow to the vitality of any central business district, this change brought about an exciting new opportunity for many small and rural communities; an opportunity to reinvent their Main Street. Though big-box retail stores and fast food chains took over the major thoroughfares of most communities, Main Street still offered the chance for a unique experience not found in any shopping mall.
For Roxboro, the Main Street community is known as Historic Uptown. Spanning from the Person County Museum of History to Roxboro Savings Bank on Main Street, this six block district is often referred to as the “heart of Roxboro.” It is in this area that many local businesses are found, some dating back to pre-1950. Pharmacies, ladies boutiques, electronic repair shops, restaurants, cafes, and home décor shops are found all along the streets of Uptown, along with a mixture of service and government offices. Since 1995, Uptown Roxboro has been a part of the North Carolina Main Street program, utilizing the Four-Point Approach© to Main Street. In 2015, Roxboro received accreditation from the National Main Street Center for exemplary work in revitalization and development efforts. Millions of private and public investment dollars have given new life to this beautiful district through beautification projects, infrastructure development, and building renovations. Additionally, Uptown Roxboro has grown to become the center for community events in Roxboro and Person County. Whether attending a live performance or movie at the Kirby Cultural Arts Complex, or taking a step back in time during a Rox N’ Roll Cruise-In, there is no shortage of things to do in Uptown.
The role of Main Street in Economic Development is two-fold. The growth and development of small, entrepreneurial businesses is fostered in this unique environment, where new and old businesses are intertwined to create a diverse mix of clientele. In today’s society, individuals can often choose where they want to work because of the abundance of technology. By maintaining a vibrant Main Street, a community readies itself to attract the new entrepreneurs, just looking for the perfect location to start their new business. Secondly, Main Street serves as a cultural hub for a community. With the countless events, programs, and classes, Main Street is a place-making tool for most any rural community. For Economic Development, this is crucial to success. When new industries and corporations consider where to locate their new facility, the quality of life component is high on the list of consideration. These entities need to know that not only will they have a wide base from which to draw their employees, but that they will also experience a special quality of life that helps to keep them in the area. Furthermore, the Main Street area often has a way of defining the feel of any particular community. Businesses need to know that they’re locating in an area where their brand and image is sustained by the brand and image of the surrounding community.
Because we recognize the profound importance of our Uptown, the Roxboro Development Group works hard to grow and develop our Main Street community. Offering incentives for development, as well as promotional support for businesses, RDG is committed to helping Uptown grow and prosper. We strive to achieve excellence in our revitalization efforts and encourage members of the community to get involved in our volunteer activities. Nearly each month, we host or partner with the hosting organization for a special event in Uptown to attract new visitors year round. This year, RDG spearheads a branding project that will help us to identify our key assets and develop a strategy for best marketing and development practices in the years ahead.
Economic Development is truly a team sport. Whether you are working to land a new industry, or coaching a small business owner through their first expansion, it truly takes a group effort to obtain your goals. RDG is proud to be a part of this team and honored to work with the special people of Person County.
Planning and Development Director, City of Roxboro
A Person County native and graduate of North Carolina State University, Lauren serves as the Planning and Development Director for the City of Roxboro, as well as Executive Director for the Roxboro Development Group.