A rebranding initiative in downtown Clinton that incorporates a colorful millstone theme tying into a freestanding art piece and the city’s rich history has been recognized as one of the state’s best image-building campaigns.
The Clinton Main Street Program received an Award of Merit for its branding initiative at the recent N.C. Main Street Awards Ceremony, held at the Paramount Theatre in downtown Goldsboro. Fourteen award winners were recognized for excellence in downtown revitalization efforts in categories that included design, economic vitality, organization and promotion.
It is Clinton’s third consecutive N.C. Main Street Award, having received a Best Façade Improvement Project award for Wilson Realty’s project at 117 Vance St. in 2015 and Best Outdoor Space Improvement for the Cinton Phase III Downtown Revitalization Project in 2014. Clinton has received a total of five Main Street Awards since 2004.
“The Clinton Main Street Program appreciates the support of our Mayor, City Council, citizens, property owners, business owners, sponsors, partners and volunteers for the commitment they all have made to providing the Clinton Main Street Program with the resources necessary to achieve these honors,” said Mary M. Rose, director of the Clinton-Sampson Planning Department and Clinton Main Street manager.
A panel of independent judges selected this year’s winners from dozens of applications submitted by Main Street participants throughout the state.
“This year’s winners represent some of North Carolina’s best ambassadors promoting business friendly downtowns, historic preservation and artistic streetscapes,” said Commerce Secretary John E. Skvarla III. “We want to shine a spotlight on their hard work of revitalizing downtowns all across our state and providing job opportunities in our local communities.”
A component of the city’s branding initiative undertaken in early 2014, the Main Street program developed a distinct brand and tag line for downtown Clinton that incorporated the millstone from the “Milling Around” art piece, a big piece of the award-winning revitalization in 2014. The tag line of “Mill Around Downtown Clinton” utilizes a multi-colored millstone and was used to create logos for three downtown events and a downtown art walk project, as well as banners, a parking map, two billboards along I-40 and a wayfinding design expected to be finalized and implemented in 2016.
During a visit to Clinton in 2012, a resource team from the N.C. Main Street Center suggested playing around with the “milling around” idea. The following year, members of all four Clinton Main Street Program committees as well as City of Clinton officials, the Clinton Development Corporation, downtown business owners and partners brainstormed with Arnett Muldrow & Associates.
“It was clear from the various stakeholder meetings that there was a great sense of pride in our recent ‘Milling Around’ art piece project,” Rose noted. “Our tag line ‘Mill Around Downtown Clinton’ was developed out of (that) project, which was the capstone of the Downtown Phase III Revitalization Project. Our new brand has filled a major need for not only promotion of downtown but also the promotion of our varied downtown events.”
The project began in March 2014 and was completed in October 2014.
Since brand implementation began in fall 2014, there have been eight façade improvements using $16,924 in grant funds and $68,421 in total investment. Additionally, Rose said special events have seen increased funding and participation, which could be attributed to “more vibrant promotion through use of our brand,” she remarked.
In 2014, the Court Square Street Fair and Barbecue Cook-off had its highest participation at 80 vendors and for the first time in its 28-year history generated a slight profit, with all event costs being covered by participation fees and sponsor funds. The newly-branded Halloween on the Square doubled in size from the prior year, with attendance estimated at 1,500. And, the Downtown Dash event, yet another newly-branded event, continues to growin participation and money raised, all of which benefits the downtown.
Rose offered her thanks to Amanda Bradshaw, director of the Sampson Community College’s Small Business Center; Kaitlin Norris, director of the Clinton-Sampson Chamber of Commerce; and Sheila Barefoot, director of the Sampson Convention and Visitors Bureau for attending the recent Main Street Conference.
“Partnerships such as these, along with the dedication of groups such as the Downtown Dash, really do make great things happen in downtown Clinton and the greater Clinton and Sampson County community,” Rose said.
Alison Carr, director of the Downtown Dash 5K & Fun Run, along with members of the Dash committee, presented the City of Clinton with a $6,000 check during Tuesday’s meeting from money raised last year.
“Since our first event four years ago in 2012, we’ve donated over $16,000 to downtown Clinton,” said Carr, who noted a committee comprised completely of volunteers with “a passion to bring a healthy event to town and give back to the downtown through improvement projects.”
Over the years, picnic tables and decorative trash cans have been purchased and landscaping completed around the “Milling Around” piece. The $6,000 donation will, among other things, purchase a brand-new “Welcome to Downtown Clinton” sign that will replace the current one at the top of College Street, adjacent to the art, and incorporate the new branding.
Carr thanked Downtown Dash’s many sponsors as well as the City of Clinton for its partnership.
“We hope we’ll see everybody out on Oct. 8 on the morning of the city street fair for our 5th annual Downtown Dash,” said Carr, “and I hope I will be back next spring with even more money.”
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