We’ve met some amazing local government leaders across the country diligently working to retool their communities for the new economy.
And almost everywhere we go, we are helping to address this one common, yet vital question…
“How can we become the type of place that retains young people, cultivates industry & small business, and attracts a qualified workforce?”
Although the details of achieving this can differ from place to place, our broad answer is often the same.
1) Develop quality-of-life infrastructure centered around your most compelling assets, and
2) Tell your own unique story.
It comes down to planning and branding
and it’s no surprise that striking a balance between the two is challenging for small communities.
Which brings us to the example of Blacksburg, South Carolina, a perfect microcosm of what we see happening all over the country.
Historic Assets, Future Opportunities
After years of urban decline, Blacksburg wanted to re-engage its citizens in downtown by connecting more people to its historic Main Street through improved pedestrian-friendly design elements and a modernized community brand.
An integrated streetscape & branding plan proved to be the perfect recipe.
Re-inventing The Iron City
During the 19th-Century, Blacksburg was a booming economic hub thanks to the “iron rush” and a railroad coming through town. In fact, Blacksburg was originally a depot town for iron ore during the Industrial Revolution. Add to this its proximity to Kings Mountain National Military Park and you’ve got one small town with a great big history.
Blacksburg is fortunate to have a catchy and distinct nickname (The Iron City) differentiating it from its peers.
Designed to pay homage to its unique history while taking hold of a promising future, their new identity embodies the toughness of a centuries-old rail town steam-rolling forward.
Overall, the Blacksburg project demonstrates the combined power, and often the necessity, of undergoing infrastructure improvements simultaneous with branding initiatives.
We’ve found that the brand discovery process often reveals something unexpected: that the product needs enhancement.
Infrastructure investments can generate a sense of culture, community, and engagement in downtown, which in turn ignites private investment… and who doesn’t love that?