Since 1997 the Downtown Greensboro Inc. has been actively working to revitalize the livelihood of this Eastern Triad city. In its almost 20-year history the DGI has played a storied role in the economic development of Greensboro, NC.
As that important milestone approaches, the community must ask what will become of the next 20 years? Recent years have brought many personnel and internal nightmares, how does that affect the DGI mission?
Who are they?
On the DGI website, they state their mission is to, “Lead the development of Downtown Greensboro as a prosperous and vibrant urban center, memorable and meaningful for those who choose to live, work, play and invest here.” Their main goal is to increase investments in the town and foster activity within the cities center. With a staff of only five people, and a board of 24 community members, this non-profit works to develop companies within the community, work on community marketing campaigns, address environmental impact, and provide educational services to residents.
Steven Harrison is the program manager, and one of those only five employees, for the DGI. He has his hands in many of the different projects currently running. From organizing both individuals and companies interested in investing in the Downtown Greensboro landscape, to consulting member corporations on practices that will benefit the entire city.
“One of the most interesting things about this job,” Harrison said in an interview, “Is seeing how many companies are actually invested in Greensboro.” Major companies in the area like Natty Greene’s Pub and Brewing Co., the Carolina Theatre, and Center Pointe, all have put time and money into bettering the community. “They know that when they support everything around them, it does nothing but boost themselves in the long run,” he said.
WATCH – a walk through Downtown Greensboro.
Where are they going?
Greensboro City Council District 3 councilman, Zack Matheny has his eyes set on DGI. Being that his district resides directly over downtown, he has had an extended interest in the organization and its work to improve the community. His passion has always been downtown.
“It was actually some friends who turned me to the idea,” he said. That idea: have Matheny serve as president and CEO of DGI. The most recent president and CEO, Jason Cannon, resigned in February, after just 18 months in the position.
The organization has been plagued with frequent staffing issues and disagreements among the Board of Directors. “I feel like I am at the moment where I have to either step up to the plate,” Matheny said, “or get the hell out.” After questioning the organizations happenings, he figured it appropriate to want to try and right it himself.
Matheny imagines a smooth transition if the DGI wants to hire him. Many of his plans for the organization are already things he is working on while holding office at the city council.
Interim DGI president and CEO, Cyndy Hayworth, denied my frequent phone calls and emails for comment about Matheny’s potential role or the organizations future.
A current bill proposed in the N.C. Senate would lead to major redistricting throughout the entire state. If this bill is passed into law, Downtown Greensboro would be distributed into other districts effectively eliminating Matheny’s position. While unfortunate, if this bill passes it would free up Matheny to lead the advocacy group without a conflict of interests. While he personally sees no issues in a potential conflict, in running the DGI and remaining on the council, much of the community has expressed concern in his ability to separate both entities and prevent a grey-area from developing.
When talking with many community members, they felt that some of the previous ideas of the DGI were stale and downtrodden. Barista at The Green Bean on S. Elm St., Karen, agreed with the overall sentiment. “I haven’t seen them accomplish anything major in recent years, since they started having issues,” she said.
Like many others, Karen is hopeful that things can turn around and continue to be prosperous. Like she said, “High tides rise all ships, after all.”
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