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©2018 NC Main Street Center. Proudly created by Small Town Soul.

Thank You New Bern!

The North Carolina Main Street program is a proven and successful economic development method that has renewed interest, energy and prosperity in the central business districts of small and large communities across the state. Main Street Math is a play on words that highlights milestones that have been achieved through the North Carolina Main Street program over the last 40 years.

Main Street Math: 3 + 27 = 40. 3 represents $3.2 billion in public and private investment that has been made in North Carolina Main Street and Small Town Main Street communities since the inception of the Main Street program in 1980; 27 signifies a net gain of more than 27,000 jobs that have been created in our North Carolina downtown districts through the Main Street program; and 40 represents the forty years that the State of North Carolina has been working in partnership with local communities to revitalize downtowns through the implementation of the National Main Street Center’s Main Street America™ program. North Carolina was fortunate to be one of the first of six states selected to participate in the program, and today the state has one of the largest and most active programs in the entire country.

The 2020 North Carolina Main Street conference will explore the impact of the program over the past forty years and will look to the future for forthcoming areas of engagement. This nineteen-year-old event is the largest statewide downtown revitalization conference in the country, and it brings together all individuals and parties interested in economic growth and success for downtown communities. Attendees to the annual North Carolina Main Street conference include downtown economic development professionals, elected officials and local government staff, volunteers, business and property owners, consultants, vendors and sponsors that are all involved in the betterment of downtown districts and rural communities.

This milestone conference will be held in historic New Bern, North Carolina. As one of the original Main Street programs in both the country and the state, New Bern is the perfect host community for the conference as they have experienced tremendous success with their downtown initiatives over the past 40 years. New Bern launched its Main Street program in 1980 and has achieved more than $338 million in investment, subsequently creating 174 businesses and renovating more than 250 buildings. The beautifully renovated New Bern Riverfront Convention Center, which flooded during Hurricane Florence in 2018, has recently reopened and will serve as the headquarters for the conference. While in town, we encourage you to visit Tryon Palace, explore the birthplace of Pepsi-Cola, walk through the NC History Center, enjoy the local cuisine, do a little shopping with the local merchants, and watch the sunrise and sunset over the convergence of the Neuse and Trent rivers in downtown New Bern.

Inspiring keynote addresses and break-out sessions with experienced presenters will provide you with new knowledge that you will be able to take home and use to implement changes right away. The North Carolina Main Street conference offers the most innovative approaches to downtown revitalization and redevelopment available in the state and perhaps in the southeast.

We’ll see you in New Bern in March!


Keynote Speakers

Donovan Rypkema




The New Bern Riverfront Convention Center Ballroom

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


The New Bern Riverfront Convention Center Ballroom

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.


Thank you to our host City of New Bern. We know hosting our conference takes a lot of work and collaboration.

We are very excited to be in New Bern. Keep checking back to see updates such as things to do and places to stay while in town for the conference.