Today’s Solutions: November 29, 2021

As many industries shift to meet modern market demands, regions that used to be bustling centers for coal, oil, steel, and other raw materials are now falling into economic despair. Many experts have cited new renewable energy jobs as a solution to this problem, but in some North Carolina towns, business leaders are taking a different approach. 

Rocky Mount, NC used to be home to a large cotton mill, but when it closed down in 1996, residents began to leave the area in search of work. To keep the town’s spirit alive, the mill’s owner, Capitol Broadcasting Company, has redeveloped the site to serve as a community center and tourist attraction to bring life back to the region. 

The mill is now the site of several restaurants and breweries. There is a quaint hotel nearby and a large field that regularly hosts concerts. In nearby High Point, Greensboro, and Winston-Salem, similar transformations are taking place. With the rise of remote work, some factories have also been updated into modern co-work spaces with historic appeal. 

With no local universities or large employers, Capitol Broadcasting knew it would have to work hard to attract new residents to Rocky Mount. They bought and renovated 70 original mill houses to appeal to young families and even added a residential sector of the updated mill itself. There’s also office space in the structure that has reached 60 percent capacity so far. 

Many of these small towns want to see their downtowns come alive again, but don’t want to abandon the history behind their success. Transforming old industrial buildings into new centers for gathering and community building is an effective strategy for honoring a town’s past while paving the way to a better future. 

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