If ever there were an example of how rural communities will thrive in the 21st Century, Lenoir is it. The three t’s – textiles, tobacco, and timber (furniture) – once formed the backbone of North Carolina’s economy. Many communities – like Lenoir – still feel the legacy of these industries today. However, the state’s more recent economic success and population growth result from the growing dominance of sectors like advanced manufacturing, tech, and biosciences- an evolution that Lenoir knows well. One of the world’s biggest tech firms – Google – has invested over $1 billion in the town. The tech giant even supplies free Wifi to downtown. Big pharma companies are utilizing old furniture manufacturing warehouses while paving the way for a new form of economic development.
Lenoir’s new, unified brand strategy springs from the community itself, and represents a shared vision for the future of Downtown:
Developing Buy-In It is crucial to obtain broad community buy-in and support in any community branding process and the citizens of Lenoir were more than up to the task. The Lenoir branding process was community-driven from beginning to end. From the outset, members of the Lenoir community drove the branding process that would ultimately be a catalyst for the town’s ongoing revitalization. Community stakeholders kept themselves engaged throughout the community branding process, which made for a seamless transition from ideation to implementation.
Building a Brand A community’s brand helps to convey its story. A story that often touches upon both its history and its future. Stakeholder input made it clear that Lenoir’s history as a manufacturing hub and its ties to woodworking and craftsmanship are a central component of its identity. Likewise, its emergence as a hub of innovation and the arts was seen as another distinguishing factor that complements its unique history. Together, this mix of past and present is central to its brand. The DbD-led community branding process involved making vignettes and allowing members of the community to tell their story, and by extension, the story of Lenoir. The most high-profile aspect of Lenoir’s new brand is a revamped downtown website, while billboard mockups, logo design, and print collateral also complement the branding effort.
Downtown Dynamism The state of a community’s downtown can tell you a lot about the overall state of affairs in that community. Simply put, vibrant downtowns don’t spring up in communities that are dull, stagnant, or otherwise lacking in culture and commerce. And thanks in part to its revamped downtown-centric brand, no one will be mistaking Lenoir for having an uninteresting downtown anytime soon. Lenoir’s downtown is the dominant driver of its brand. Fueled in part by interest from entrepreneurs and innovators with a crafty side, Lenoir’s downtown is experiencing an economic revival. Lenoir’s post-industrial survival story is very much tied to its blending of “old school” and “new school,” and nothing embodies that reality quite like its downtown. It is in this space where artists, craftsmen, foodies, and other entrepreneurial-types are embracing the town’s heritage, while also helping to lay the foundation for a prosperous future. Take a walk around Lenoir’s downtown, and there is no mistaking its brand. Lenoir’s ongoing downtown revitalization is a reminder of how proud the town’s citizens are of its rich history of innovation and culture, and how hopeful they are about its future. Lenoir is a friendly town of makers and innovators that has a little something for everyone. The town’s ongoing commitment to revitalizing its downtown and promoting an authentic brand means that there are still promising chapters left to be written about this 21st-Century small town’s turnaround.