By Jenna Barone
A 2013 UNC-Greensboro “State of the City” report revealed the number of young professionals in Greensboro had increased by only one percent since 2000. In terms of overall population growth, Greensboro still trailed behind other North Carolina cities like Charlotte and Raleigh when it came to attracting young professionals. But in the last three years, efforts to revitalize the Greensboro landscape and encourage young professionals to settle in the area have started to see results.
Since 2001, a nonprofit called Action Greensboro has taken on a “leading voice in urban livability, civic engagement, educational advancement and initiatives to attract and retain young professionals in Greensboro.”
This summer, I had the chance to participate in one of Action Greensboro’s many initiatives—The Opportunity Greensboro Fellows Program. College students in the area intern with a Greensboro organization to gain industry experience while developing leadership skills, engaging in the community and establishing mentorships.
By participating in the program, I learned about recent city developments and encountered several other initiatives designed to improve Greensboro’s culture and increase its desirability among young adults. The following list describes a few unique attributes that play a role in the city’s evolving identity:
- Revolution Mill: The second event I attended for the Opportunity Greensboro Fellow’s program included dinner at a restaurant in Revolution Mill. As I drove by the first flannel mill in the south, I couldn’t believe its large size (and realized finding the restaurant may prove more difficult than I thought). In 1930, Revolution Mill housed the largest exclusive flannel manufacturer in the world, a huge economic driver for the region. North Carolina’s decreasing manufacturing forced Revolution Mill to close in 1982, but the historic property’s makeover, which started in 2012, has made it into a destination campus. The Revolution Mill now includes businesses, conference facilities, loft apartments, performance spaces, art galleries, restaurants and trails, and continues to grow. A “hub for creative work and active living,” the Revolution Mill has created a unique community within a community available to the public. As a leading Greensboro hotspot, the Revolution Mill has shaped Greensboro’s personality and busy cultural scene.
- Lime bikes: Monty and I traveled to our mentoring lunch at Undercurrent restaurant with two Lime Bikes we located about a block away from RLF’s office. The bikes are easy to find (you can’t miss the bright neon green) and even fit thematically with Greensboro’s efforts to encourage environmental friendliness. Not to mention, it fits thematically with the city’s name. Get it? Greensboro. Bikers pay a small fee to ride the bike anywhere in Greensboro and then leave it in a responsible, reasonable area for the next person. The bikes fuel a sense of community by encouraging sustainability, fitness and trust—three key factors important to many young professionals’ lifestyles.
- Passport to Summer: At the beginning of the Greensboro Fellows Program, I received a goody-bag with freebies from sponsors that included a blue paper “passport.” Several Greensboro businesses, restaurants, galleries, etc. participate in the Passport to Summer program, which rewards you for actions like visiting certain businesses or engaging with them on social media. When you complete the required task set forth by each Greensboro organization, you receive a stamp. The more stamps you collect, the more chances you have to win prize drawings at the end of the summer. Anyone can participate, and I found the passport a great way to learn about restaurants and shops unfamiliar to me in the downtown area. I love seeing local businesses team-up to support economic growth and success for the entire community.
- SynerG: Yes, we have another play on words here! A group dedicated to Greensboro’s young professionals, SynerG is another initiative under Action Greensboro that creates opportunities to attract, engage and connect the under-40 community. By providing both a professional and social network, young professionals engage in leadership opportunities and use the organization as a “clearinghouse for information.” Young professionals often complain about the difficulty of making new friends when moving to a new city. SynerG makes it easy and fun for young professionals to quickly join the Greensboro community and find opportunities to grow personally and professionally.
- Survey: In March 2018, Greensboro public officials released a survey to the public, asking residents to help make a new vision for the city a reality. The survey responses will provide Greensboro with public input regarding the $25 million Downtown Greensboro Streetscape Master Plan. Greensboro plans to invest in several streets and areas of the city to make the downtown more accessible for bikers and walkers. Though shops, restaurants, and businesses have sprung up downtown in the last few years, the area has struggled to secure new residents. By continuing to seek public opinion and ways to improve, Greensboro has made a long-term commitment to create a thriving community. The survey encourages residents to have a stake in the outcome while creating a sense of unity. A transparent local government dedicated to serving the public good is an attractive trait to any young person looking to settle.