Free training offered for downtown small businesses

Published 2:44 pm Thursday, June 20, 2024

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The North Carolina Department of Commerce’s Main Street and Rural Planning Center (the Center) is offering training to downtown small business owners and managers who have businesses in any of the 72 designated N.C. Main Street communities. The Center will host regional workshops, entitled “Making Your Community & Business a Destination.” One workshop will be held in each of the eight prosperity zones in the state. The first two workshops will be held in the Western region in Hendersonville on June 24, and the Northwestern region in Morganton on June 25.

“Our state’s First in Talent strategic economic development plan prioritizes support for our small businesses as vital drivers of our economy,” said Chief Deputy Secretary for N.C. Commerce Jordan Whichard. “This workshop series is yet another tool that can help bolster and prepare businesses for success.”

The 2024 Destination Marketing Training workshop series will lay the foundation for attracting customers that will be followed and supported for the balance of the year by online action groups and Q&A sessions. In 2025, an advanced series will offer more in-depth information and support, highlighting businesses that have successfully implemented the training. Led by Jon Schallert of the Schallert Group, this day-long workshop is intended to give small business owners a roadmap, strategies, and tools to entice consumers to their businesses.

Attendees will learn:

  • The Schallert Group’s 14-step strategy of the basics to identify their unique goods and services, and how to turn the business into a consumer destination.
  • A foundation to build upon for Advanced Destination Marketing Workshops to be held in 2025.

After the workshop, small businesses will receive:

  • Monthly online training to increase the small businesses’ customer traffic, sales, and profits, including Virtual Action Group calls.
  • Access to Destination University® private training library.

Small businesses that complete the training in 2024 and 2025 will be eligible to be designated as a Certified N.C. Destination Business. They will receive a decal for their business identifying them as such to their customers.

“The Rural Economic Development Division is excited to kick off this training series to enhance the small businesses located throughout our downtown districts,” said Assistant Secretary for Rural Economic Development Kenny Flowers. “Everyone has a favorite small business they frequent – this training will help businesses understand how to expand their reach and attract more customers.”

Funding was secured through a State Outdoor Recreation, Travel & Tourism Grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) to expand the N.C. Main to Main Trail. The training is designated for small businesses in designated N.C. Main Street downtown communities. The workshops and training are free; however, advanced registration is required at N.C. Main Street Training website. (

The following trainings are scheduled from 8:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.:

  • June 24, 2024              Hendersonville (Western Region)
  • June 25, 2024              Morganton (Northwest Region)
  • July 29, 2024               Edenton (Northeast Region)
  • July 30, 2024                Goldsboro (Southeast Region)
  • August 12, 2024            Lexington (Piedmont Triad Region)
  • August 13, 2024            Wake Forest (North Central Region)
  • September 23, 2024     Concord (Southwest Region)
  • September 24, 2024     Laurinburg (Sandhills Region)

“This training will position small, local business owners and managers to understand what is necessary to differentiate themselves from others to make consumers drive hours to visit,” said Liz Parham, director of the N.C. Main Street & Rural Planning Center. “Local staff, such as Main Street programs, city staff, and local economic development staff in designated N.C. Main Street communities will also benefit from the training so they may actively support their local businesses in this proven method.”

The Main to Main Trail is a regional tourism economic development initiative developed by the N.C. Main Street & Rural Planning Center to enhance regional tourism and connectivity between designated North Carolina Main Street communities. The N.C. Main to Main Trail leads visitors through the state’s designated Main Street communities, highlighting each town’s best downtown and outdoor experiences, and providing links to the local Main Street program, Visit NC, and the local tourism websites.

The N.C. Main Street & Rural Planning Center is North Carolina’s state coordinating program for Main Street America. Main Street America has been helping revitalize older and historic commercial districts for more than 44 years. It is the leading voice for preservation-based economic development and community revitalization across the country. The Center works in regions, counties, cities, towns, downtown districts, and in designated North Carolina Main Street communities to inspire placemaking through asset-based economic development strategies that achieve measurable results such as investment, business growth, and jobs.

For more information, visit the N.C. Main Street page here, or contact Liz Parham, director of N.C. Main Street & Rural Planning Center,