In recognition of their commitment to innovative economic development efforts, their dedication to making Rutherfordton a great small town and their work to market and promote their town, Rutherfordton has been named the 2016 Outstanding Small Town. The award was presented during a ceremony at the N.C. Rural Center’s Rural Assembly on Sept. 26th in Raleigh. More than a dozen citizens from the town attended.
The Outstanding Small Town Award recognizes a town that embraces citizen engagement, values diversity, and fosters strong partnerships. An outstanding town employs innovative economic development projects and programs and fosters an entrepreneur-friendly environment. In addition, awardees have overcome economic barriers and challenges and have been creative, diligent and resourceful in building a better economy for their citizens. Any town in the state with a population less than 10,000 is eligible, with priority given to those who have participated in the Rural Center’s N.C. Small Towns Economic Prosperity (NC STEP) program. This is the second year the Rural Center has presented the Outstanding Small Town Award.
“On behalf of all the citizens of Rutherfordton, receiving the 2016 Small Town of the Year award from the NC Rural Center is a most distinct honor,” Mayor Jimmy Dancy said. “This not only recognizes our successful STEP program, but also recognizes the highly capable leadership team and dedicated citizens who were persistent in implementing this challenge. The STEP program didn’t end with the expenditure of the grant, as new leadership has joined our efforts in making our town an engaged community.”
Rutherfordton’s Road to becoming the 2016 Outstanding Small Town
Rutherfordton, along with Rutherford Town Revitalization (RTR) that coordinated its NC STEP program, developed and implemented a cohesive, long-term economic development strategic plan during the NC STEP process and continues to carry those goals and plans forward.
The town chose to focus on three core areas: marketing and promoting the town, developing a sense of place and destination, and encouraging business development. Rutherfordton realized early on that connecting with its citizens and the outside world is important. It has a new brand – “A Minted Original,” billboard campaign, marketing collateral, trail guides, street banners, 2 new websites, new downtown signage and increased social media: 5,700 Facebook followers, 800 on Twitter, almost 700 on Instagram and a town #1Town1Team hashtag.
They’re also connecting two other priorities of theirs: outdoor activity and history with the new Purple Martin Greenway, Downtown Historic Walking Trail, and the Gold Mile – part of the NC Gold Trail covering 30 counties once part of the NC Gold Rush.
Rutherfordton has also been one of the 50 safest cities in North Carolina for the past 2 consecutive years, the Rutherfordton Fire & Rescue Department improved its ISO rating to a level 4, Public Works has implemented a of a curbside recycling program and the Town began a new event called FUNC (Fridays Unplugged on Central), a family friendly music event series.
And finally, they realize that to be successful over the long haul, partnerships are key. Through partnerships, they are offering science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) activities at KidSenses Museum and STEM programs at their elementary and middle schools; creating an online downtown business development resource; and redeveloping downtown buildings.
Rutherfordton Town Council has consistently supported the efforts of the STEP team and was engaged throughout the process by implementing recommendations from the STEP strategic plan. To underscore their continued commitment, the Town Council held a visioning and goal setting workshop with the purpose of identifying three-year actionable goals. Many of these goals began with NC STEP, and the Council has been motivated to build upon the synergy created by this citizen-driven process. “From my perspective as the Town Manager, it validates the efforts that the Town Council, Town Hall, RTR, STEP, and all of the Town departments have been working on to improve Rutherfordton and to provide service forged at the highest standard, and now we’re being recognized for those efforts,” said Town Manager Doug Barrick.
Learn more about Rutherfordton at www.rutherfordton.net or follow them on social media, Facebook at MyRutherfordton or Twitter at RutherfordtonNC.
About the N.C. Rural Center
The mission of the North Carolina Rural Economic Development Center, Inc. (The Rural Center) is to develop, promote, and implement sound economic strategies to improve the quality of life of rural North Carolinians. The center serves the state’s 80 rural counties, with a special focus on individuals with low to moderate incomes and communities with limited resources.
Created in 1987, the center operates a multi-faceted program that serves as the state’s rural policy leader and advocate; develops strategies to bring about economic and social transformation; delivers resources for rural people, businesses and communities; and equips rural leaders to succeed in the 21st century. The center is a private, non-profit organization funded by both public and private sources and led by a board of directors.