Revitalization downtown areas is an important public policy initiative based on the declining Midwestern towns displaced by globalization and migrations to metropolitan areas. The study entitled How to Revitalize a Small Rural Town? An Empirical Study of Factors for Success. University-Community Collaboration with a Small Historic Rural Tourism Town in the Journal of Rural and Community Development offers valuable information on how university-community collaboration can impact the revitalization of small towns (Grunwell & Ha, 2014).
Public officials of Dillsboro, NC reached out to local university staff to help it with staggering declines in economic activity as a result of the tourist train no longer stopping at their station. Local employment consisted of education, healthcare, social assistance, entertainment, art, recreation, food services, and public administration. With limited business attractions and an average household income of $33,500, 8% unemployment rate, and many of its shops closed it needed help in sparking new growth.
To understand what stakeholders needed and wanted university staff to put together three questionnaires to help gauge the fundamentals of decline. The questions were directed toward:
(1) town business owners,
(2) university faculty/staff and students,
(3) visitors to the town.
By cross-examining the similarities of the three different survey results, it was found that people wanted the return of the tourist train, consistent business hours, occasional extended hours during events, stronger marketing campaigns, additional entertainment, a variety of businesses, visible town signage, and enhanced attractions.
Based on these results and university analysis it was determined that the town needed a more robust marketing strategy, business plans that spurred local growth, and many more activities that attract visitors. The marketing strategies that seemed to attract the most people were signage, regional magazines, newspapers, signage, and word-of-mouth.
Creating small towns of interest relied heavily on the community business owners collaborating under a formal plan and agreeing that each should move in the same direction so that all members can reach higher levels of growth and wealth. They bought into the marketing plans and pushed for greater awareness. Different types of shops that offer were encouraged to join the area, and a partnership with the train company was created to bring it back to town.
Grunwell, S. & Ha, I. (2014). How to Revitalize a Small Rural Town? An Empirical Study of Factors for Success. University-Community Collaboration with a Small Historic Rural Tourism Town. Journal of Rural & Community Development, 9 (2).