High Point is thinking small but that’s not a bad thing.
The city is one of six in the country that has won a technical assistance grant to help manufacturers put unused and underused buildings back in business through the use of small-scale manufacturing operations.
Sandy Dunbeck, the executive vice president of the High Point Economic Development Corp. said it wasn’t an easy grant to get.
“We had applied a year previous to this one and had not been accepted,” she said, “but this year we reapplied and strengthened our application a bit, and, with all the work going on downtown, we were awarded the grant.”
As a result, in the first week of February, representatives of Recast Cities – consultants funded by the Smart Growth grant – will come to High Point to meet with economic development officials, property owners and interested members of the public. Recast Cities will also meet with the board of the High Point Economic Development Corp.
High Point, working with the consultants, will develop an action plan for workforce training and small business development with one goal being to bring life back to pockets of High Point where there’s currently not much economic activity.
Smart Growth America is a non-profit based in Washington, DC that works with elected officials, property owners, real estate developers, chambers of commerce and urban planning professionals to improve communities through smart development. One aspect of that mission is putting unused space to work with manufacturing operations that don’t require giant overhead costs or a large number of employees.
Though Smart Growth is a non-governmental entity, the program is made possible through funding from the US Economic Development Administration.
High Point doesn’t get any money with the grant but what it does get is a great deal of free expertise and assistance in the attempt to transform financially challenged sections of downtown into productive spaces.
Dunbeck said that’s important for a city like High Point.
“Many of the old buildings would work well for small scale manufacturers,” she said. “We’re trying to figure out all of the ways we can best support them.”
According to a statement from Smart Cities, one reason High Point was selected is that, as the Home Furnishings Capital of the World, it now has a large number of vacant or underutilized commercial and industrial properties in the heart of the city. The statement said that was “due to the relocation of many manufacturers over the past 25 years,” and the hope is that this will help the city “reverse that trend by focusing on equitable redevelopment in an inner neighborhood.”
High Point has already identified underutilized industrial sites in the southwestern section of the city’s downtown, expected to be the target area for the program.