STEP Grant Accomplishments

NC Small Town Economic Prosperity (STEP) Grant

Contract Number  2008-41560401-117

Implementation Final Report


General Information

Name of organization and project:      Rowland’s STEP Team

Reporting period covered: August 2010 – May 2012

Document Preparer: Benjamin F. McCallum Jr., Executive Director, Rowland Area CDC

When the Rowland STEP Team completed its planning process, we were definitely ready to spend our money. It seems this was the guiding focus of some of its members. We had looked beyond how the seven templates would or could change and shape the environment of our community, just looking to spending the money before it went away.

 The Rowland STEP Leadership Team adopted three (3) economic development strategies:

1. Support Business Growth to diversify and expand existing businesses as well as to encourage new businesses and entrepreneurship.

2. Recruit and attract retirees and commuters.

3. Market Rowland within and beyond the town, including improving communication among townspeople.  

Although we had just spent countless hours in developing and designing the templates that would guide us through the process, the focus was spending the money. The templates were truly needed to guide us on how and where we had agreed to spend our funds; without the templates, I do not think we would have completed the implementation process. 

As we reviewed the overall evaluation of the implementation stage of the program, we must deem it a great success. Although we mailed approximately 70 letters before each general meeting, the attendance at each meeting averaged 25. On the other hand, we took no one off our mailing list once they were added; additionally, it was learned that many recipients read the information being mailed even though they did not attend every meeting. We had a fellowship meal at each meeting.

The governance of the project was a key factor in keeping high attendance. Anyone attending a meeting at any time shared equally in the decision on where and what to spend the funds on. Once the team agreed on the items, it was then presented to the Town Commission by the Team Coordinator for the Council’s approval. This was very important because Commission was not directing the Team on where and how to spend funds, but saw themselves as equal partners and advisors, helping to develop and shape the community environment. 

Residents were looking to see sudden changes that impacted the community, but those impacts they missed were:

1) Having a voice in decision making that was no longer silent.

2) Networking with community resources they viewed did not know them.

3) The opportunity to reach out to the business community with funds and resources.

4) Awakening hidden business opportunities right in their community. 

5) Truly showing the state and country they were a “Town of A Thousand Friends “.

6) Last, but not least, knowing we were not left alone to fend for ourselves.

Much thanks to Chilton Rogers, Dr. Yolanda Burwell, Helen McInnis and Art Jackson for being there when we needed them.



Studies and Marketing Plans

One of the most  important studies and marketing plans done for the town was the strategic Marketing Plan done by the students and professor Dr. John Parnell of the UNC-Pembroke Marketing Team.  Their marketing strategy helped identify and analyze why the Rowland Historic Depot is so important to addressing   the issues of reaching the tourists that constantly pass thru the community. The plan would guide the town in stimulating the community’s enthusiasm for renovating the historic Depot Museum. The plan also displays conceptual design images that illustrate the potential of the Historic Museum as a place of cultural and historic significance.  The Beautification Plan developed a vision and architectural plan for Rowland streetscapes, green spaces, and building fronts. NC State University’s Department of Landscape Architecture helped develop a community consensus on details of what Rowland should look like to resident to attract visitors to and attract new businesses.

Website Development

The town was able to have a website professionally developed that now helps serve as a gateway into our community. The gathering of materials for the website was done by UNC-P Communications Students. A town employee is the Webmaster to keep the website up-to-date. The first six months of the new site saw direct hits to our website increase from 18 to 132 each month..

Town Brochures

In order to entice travelers mainly on I-95, the town designed, developed, and published a Town Brochure highlighting the town in words and pictures, and including an area map. Brochures have been distributed to motels between I-95’s Exit 181 to Latta in South Carolina and Exit 55 at Eastover, North Carolina. These brochures are periodically replenished as needed.

Streetscape Project

The streetscape initiative was the most visible of the STEP Program’s projects; these consisted of several enhancements to the look of downtown, including the following:

  1. We erected attractive banners on light poles along both sides of Main Street to make downtown more attractive to passers-through;
  2. We placed benches strategically along Main Street to allow browsers to sit and relax or just watch the world go by;
  3. In a minor coup to attract seasonal shoppers to our downtown, we purchased new Christmas decorations to brighten the Christmas holiday season.

Training and Education

As we look at the training and education received, we have to mention the many regional workshops provided by the Rural Center, such as the “Small Towns Creating Opportunities: Investing in People” program. This workshop helped our leaders to know how to invest in people through discussions of strengthening the workforce, engaging youth differently, building assets, and connecting with small business owners.

And Patrick A. Corso from Moore County Partners in Progress provided training on forming a Cooperative food store and developing relationships with Moore County

Rebecca Gonzalez, a UNC-P School of Business instructor,  held two 2-hour seminars with Small Business owners in Rowland that had an attendance of 10 people.

Business Development

The economic future of Rowland depends to a large degree on revitalized downtown business development. The Downtown Business Development and Façade Grant projects provided over $16,600 in grant funds which  encouraged participating businesses to invest an additional $22,000 in private monies to improve the look of their storefronts.

Improve Attractiveness and Functionality of Town Park

The Town Park was renovated to standards such that county and regional events could be hosted to attract others to the town, thereby increasing retail sales by hosting these events. This was a partnership with the Robeson County Board of Commissioners and the Robeson County Parks and Recreation Department.