The North Carolina of yesterday was associated with the tobacco industry, located largely in the eastern and central part of our state, and for textiles and furniture industries in the western part of the state.
All of these industries helped to contribute to the economic success of our state for generations.
However, times have changed. Due to changing consumer preferences and behaviors, as well as macroeconomic factors, those businesses began to diminish in our state either going overseas or evaporating as a whole. North Carolina had to reinvent itself and start to become a more diverse business economy, and in doing so is starting to thrive.
Carrboro is no different. Our main businesses today are restaurants and retail which is what drives patronage in our town. Many of these establishments (and homes in the area) currently reside in buildings once populated by the businesses and people that used to work in the industries that are now a memory in our state.
In order to prevent history from repeating itself, Carrboro must adapt to these changing times or we will see this trend continue. Last month, two of my favorite places in Carrboro, Crossties BBQ and Milltown closed their doors, which was a loss for our community and is hopefully not a bellwether of things to come.
To ensure a vibrant future for Carrboro’s business, we must look to create a diverse business environment which includes women-owned and minority businesses, as well as a broad range of businesses to create a strong ecosystem.
When we bring in a small to mid-sized technology or professional services company, those employees then eat in our restaurants, purchase goods from our stores, and patronize other businesses to support their lifestyle (e.g. bike repair, dry cleaning, grocery shopping).
By adding this business, we have increased revenue for all of the businesses in town which will showcase Carrboro as a vibrant business community. This virtuous cycle then attracts more business and eventually you create a self-sustaining model where independent and entrepreneurial endeavors can thrive.
Additionally, this effort enables two other positive outcomes.
First, we will reduce the traffic that we see every morning as most Carrboro residents leave town to work elsewhere. This will cut down on car miles and carbon emissions.
Second, we create positions that pay enough so that the employees of these businesses can afford to live in our community. People will truly be able to live where they work.
Our ability to do this is only limited by our effort to create the kind of environment that will allow a diverse group of businesses to thrive. There is a wealth of talent here, an active Chamber and world-class talent in our universities and medical centers.
It’s time we put our town’s resources towards making this happen.