03/20/16 — Visitors impressed with city

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Visitors impressed with city

By Melinda Harrell
Published in News on March 20, 2016 1:45 AM

Alan Campbell

Joe Borgstrom, left, principal and managing partner of Main & Place Advisors, talks with Mari Howe, of the Garner Revitalization Association, following his keynote address Friday during the North Carolina Main Street Conference at the Paramount Theatre.

By the end of the North Carolina Main Street Conference on Friday, downtown Goldsboro had seen a flood of nearly 600 people from all across the state who were largely unfamiliar with the city and what it has to offer.

City Manager Scott Stevens said those guests were not disappointed.

He also said earning such positive visibility among leaders in the state, including the North Carolina Secretary of Commerce John E. Skarvala, would only prove to be beneficial to the city's future endeavors.

"I think having state cabinet level people here being impressed with downtown could be beneficial," he said. "The more positive visibility gives Goldsboro a little bit more of an edge with the people knowing us and the people. People have a very good opinion of Goldsboro throughout the state."

Downtown Goldsboro Development Corp. Executive Director Julie Metz also said the conference provided the city with a larger pool of interested developers, who having seen the newly revitalized downtown area, have become more amenable to expanding their business to the city.

"We had some developers interested in some properties in the area," Ms. Metz said.

"At least half the people I talked to had never been to Goldsboro and the majority that had been, hasn't seen (the city) in five years and were taken aback by the downtown changes."

Ms. Metz said the keynote speaker for conference on Thursday, Pamela Herrmann, was so impressed with the changed downtown as well as the hospitable atmosphere that she was considering incorporating the Goldsboro experience into a book she was writing on customer service.

Both Stevens and Ms. Metz said the local people's hospitality, including volunteers and business owners, resonated with the conference visitors.

"We heard nothing but fantastic comments," Ms. Metz said.

"Many people said it was the best conference ever. There were just glowing remarks."

Stevens said much of the conference's success is attributed to the work that DGDC staff did in preparing for it.

"Julie Metz's staff and volunteers spent hours and hours and hours to prepare for this, through training ranging from how to greet people to being the most helpful," he said.

And though volunteers did offer an added touch of interpersonal warmth to the conference, the downtown business owners' enthusiasm also gave it another layer of hospitality.

Ed Cogdell, owner of Ed's Southern Foods and Spirits, said his establishment was burgeoning with new business and people, and he was happy for it.

"It's been heavy duty," he said.

"I have met a bunch of great people who were impressed with the efforts the city has done. They came from places that I have never been, but want to go to now."

Cogdell also said that the Streetscape project has really changed the atmosphere of the downtown area for the better, and he was glad to be in the city to see it happen.

"The renaissance and rejuvenation is wonderful. The spirit of the city is back. The hard part is over, and this is awesome," he said.

David Glisson, co-owner of Uniquely R's, said that the attendees of the conference that flooded into his shop spoke in glowing terms of the Streetscape project and the city's effort to revitalize its downtown area.

"We're busy," he said.

"It's been steady traffic since (conference attendees) got here, and people are still out at night, which is nice to see. I have heard nothing but praise for the city and what the city has done."

The city was also able to showcase the cooperative relationship the community has with Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, Stevens said.

Steven said the flyover and rededication of the F-86 and SJAFB tour, as well as Col. Mark Slocum's speaking engagement during the conference, highlighted the powerful bond between the city and the military.

"I think everyone thought (the conference) was fabulous," Stevens said.

"I think the visitors thought Goldsboro was at the top of the list in terms of downtowns right now."

Stevens said the conference was something for the city to be proud of because in the three-day span the Main Street Conference was being conducted it was able to unveil the newly revitalized downtown area to state leaders, showcase how the city and the military can form a powerful union and show how hospitable the Goldsboro community can be.

"I couldn't be prouder to be the city manager of Goldsboro," he said.