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Downtown efforts lack social media presence

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BY WILLIAM F. WEST
Staff Writer

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Do you want to visit Facebook and find out more about the city of Rocky Mount’s downtown revitalization effort?

Well, you cannot go there — at least not right now, because apparently there is no active link on the social networking site to help illustrate efforts to improve the heart of the city.

The subject came up at a recent meeting of the Central City Revitalization Panel.

Panelist David Joyner asked the city’s acting downtown development manager, Kevin Harris, and the city’s new downtown business and community development coordinator, David Wise, about who is responsible for promoting the central business district daily on social media and websites.

“We had a representative that was handling the media portion,” Harris said, noting that person has been pulled away to do other things. “Right now, we don’t have a dedicated media person.”

Joyner also noted the downtown Rocky Mount Instagram page has not been updated in a couple of years.

Joyner wanted to know how quickly Harris and Wise could figure out a course of action to give Rocky Mount downtown revitalization an updated presence on social media.

Wise said the matter has to go through the city’s marketing department, where Tameka Kenan-Norman is the city’s chief communications and marketing officer.

Joyner said what he is requesting from the city is an easy thing to get done.

Joyner, who has his own public relations business, made clear he believes the day-to-day promotion of what downtown presently has in terms of businesses and events should be a fairly normal thing.

He also said he believes this plays a heavy role with the public because they can see downtown businesses and events already are being promoted.

Harris said he would feed information back to the city’s website administrator.

The downtown revitalization programs in Tarboro and Wilson, as well as in Edenton and Elizabeth City, have routinely updated Facebook pages.

Wilson’s downtown revitalization Facebook page in particular is quite a center of online traffic, as shown by 8,074 followers.

Data from the Pew Research Center, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, shows that approximately seven in 10 American adults use Facebook.

The data shows that among the American adults who use Facebook, approximately three-fourths of them visit the site at least once daily. The data also said that approximately four in 10 American adults get news from Facebook.

Joyner’s questioning about the lack of social media crafted to help the heart of Rocky Mount was hardly the only concern raised last week at the Central City Revitalization Panel meeting.

Panelist and city Councilwoman Chris Miller wanted to know whether Harris and Wise have clear definitions of their respective roles in downtown revitalization.

Wise told Miller he believes there is a lot of overlap in his and Harris’ positions.

Miller asked Harris whether he, as acting downtown development manager, is making contacts with businesses and trying to get them downtown.

“I’m talking to businesses that are interested in downtown, but also working with property owners to find out what they want to do with their properties — and working with property owners that come forward with requests for assistance or guidance,” Harris said.

“It’s not as much recruiting as facilitating and supporting what’s here,” he said.

Harris has been with the city of Rocky Mount for more than a year and presently is the municipal government’s business development manager.

Harris has extensive prior experience in banking and finance and community development.

He told the panelists that Wise is administrator of Rocky Mount’s Main Street revitalization program.

The Main Street program nationwide dates back to 1980 and was created in response to numerous issues facing older and historic downtowns.

Wise came from Colorado and is beginning his fourth month in Rocky Mount.

Wise told the panelists he most recently was an assistant to the city administrator in a small city in the southern part of the Rocky Mountain State.

He also told the panelists he has much experience working in the Main Street program and working in preservation and restoration.

Attempts to obtain further details from city officials via email were unsuccessful. The Telegram also emailed city communications officials seeking an interview with Wise but has not yet received a response.

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