Oxford Mayor Jackie Sergent and Mary Yount, director of the Downtown Oxford Economic Development Corporation (DOEDC), were on Wednesday’s edition of WIZS’ Town Talk program to discuss recent growth and development in both the downtown area and in the city.
The City of Oxford, in partnership with the DOEDC, has been a North Carolina Main Street community since 1998; however, 2018 is the first year Oxford received National Main Street accreditation.
Accredited Main Street America programs display a commitment to preservation-based economic development and community revitalization using a four-point approach including, according to Yount, “organization, promotion, design and economic vitality.”
Additional criteria for accreditation include the creation and successful execution of a plan of action and the requirement of a full-time person committed to the implementation.
“We have to have partners and volunteers to make this happen,” said Yount. “DOEDC is a non-profit that works very closely with the City in creating these partnerships with downtown businesses, Granville’s health systems, the County, libraries, museums, etc.”
Volunteer hours are also vital to the sustainability of the downtown area. “This past year, the Downtown Oxford Main Street program reported, as part of our statistics, that we had over 4,200 hours served by volunteers.”
By being a part of the Main Street program, the City of Oxford is eligible to receive additional funding by way of grants and loans and gains access to expert advice at the national, state and local level.
“For the cost of paying their mileage to come to Oxford to work with us [the Main Street program team] came on three separate occasions to facilitate a strategic planning session,” said Sergent. “Often times, it takes someone who really knows what they’re doing to help guide all the volunteers that have come to the table through the process. The NC Main Street program was critical in our coming together with a very solid plan.”
In addition to the funding available through the Main Street program and local government, Sergent credits the municipal service tax with helping the downtown area thrive.
“We have a municipal service tax district in downtown, agreed upon by the downtown vendors. That is an additional property tax that helps provide seed money to the DOEDC. That is part of what helps pay for the activities that go on in downtown,” said Sergent.
When questioned if the downtown area and Oxford as a whole are ready for expected population growth in the future, Sergent replied, “I think we’re tremendously ready!”
Sergent emphasized that the City’s recent acquisition of approximately $40 million in a combination of grants and low-interest loans puts Oxford well on its way to successfully implementing the $94 million infrastructure master plan. The $40 million is currently earmarked for water and wastewater infrastructure.
Sergent also said Oxford’s commitment to preparing for growth is evident in the recent decision by the City Commissioners to annex approximately 88 acres of land with an additional 44 acres to be discussed at their next monthly meeting in December.
“I think Oxford is really poised to handle the growth and development coming our way.”
To hear the interview in its entirety, please click here.