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Granite Quarry looks for a brand — could it be music?

GRANITE QUARRY — Could the next Music City be Granite Quarry?
At its two-day retreat, which ended Saturday afternoon, the Granite Quarry Board of Aldermen often returned to the question of what the town’s brand should be.
What should Granite Quarry be known for, now that the rock which fed its origins has long been played out? What identity could make Granite Quarry a destination place, not a pass-through town on U.S. 52?
Can Granite Quarry ever attract tourists, or at least be a side trip for people headed elsewhere?
Garry Mattingly, owner of Slice of Heaven Pizza & Wings and a member of the town’s revitalization task force, suggested making Granite Quarry synonymous with music.
The town could build on the strong bluegrass and gospel traditions already around it, Mattingly said as examples. The annual Fiddlers’ Convention, sponsored by the Granite Quarry Civitans, demonstrates the kind of crowds music can attract, Mattingly offered.
“We want to give people something here,” that’s not in other communities, he said.
Mattingly also proposed establishing a music school, whose students could play at Granite Quarry events, and tapping into talent at public and private schools, churches and associations.
Granite Quarry must come up with something unique, Mattingly said. “Otherwise, it’s the drive-through town,” he added.
Mayor Pro Tem Jim LaFevers said a possible first step might be to include music every time Granite Quarry has an event.
For example, the town’s annual “Plants in the Park” sale May 3 could easily provide room for musical entertainment, LaFevers said.
Mayor Bill Feather asked his daughter, Billie, a professional musician, to share her experiences on how communities have used music successfully.
She described an example in which a Saturday farmers’ market always included invited bands as a major component.
The event became something people looked forward to because it was consistent, safe, outdoors and family friendly while showcasing a wide range of music and featuring local products, Billie Feather said.
Bill Feather said that kind of regular event might be something the town’s recreation committee and the Granite Quarry Business Alliance could discuss in the future.
Mattingly also belongs to the business group.
Aldermen spent considerable time Friday talking with James Meacham, executive director of the Salisbury-Rowan Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Meacham recommended the town work on its sense of place and curb appeal.
“What would strangers say as they pass through?” Meacham asked. “… What is the impression we sell them? Are we even asking them to stop?”
Alderwoman Mary S. Ponds said the town definitely needed to work on its “welcome mat.”
Granite Quarry has proximity to places such as the Old Stone House, Dan Nicholas Park, Dunn’s Mountain Park and wineries — and that closeness should be promoted, Meacham suggested.
Granite Quarry has what a lot of communities would like — a downtown park (Granite Lake Park), Meacham said, suggesting it might be something to build on.
Alderman Arin Wilhelm said sports tourism might be another avenue to pursue. “You go where the tournament is,” he said. But he also acknowledged major weekend youth tournaments for things such as swimming, soccer, lacrosse and softball go where the facilities are.
The Convention and Visitors Bureau could lend the town assistance in things such as improving the curb appeal, signs, Christmas lights and making its trolleys available, Meacham said.
He encouraged the town to find ways to use his organization’s two new 30-passenger trolleys.
Aldermen also met Friday with Jason Epley, executive director of the N.C. Downtown Development Association and part owner and planner with Benchmark in Kannapolis.
Epley’s association helped the town formulate a downtown revitalization plan, which already has led to directional signs for Granite Quarry from Interstate 85, the formation of the merchants group, the establishment of a community appearance committee, the planning of new sidewalks and some easing of sign restrictions.
“We picked the low-hanging fruit,” Feather said.
But the bigger challenges ahead include the creation of a downtown district with a long-range plan, a facade program and redevelopment of existing properties.
Epley said a facade grant program might be a bit different in Granite Quarry, especially in establishing criteria for grants. The money could go toward things such as signs, painting, minor structural repairs, awnings, landscaping and removal of false fronts on buildings, Epley said as examples.
Graduate students from the University of North Carolina visited Granite Quarry this past week and are helping the town in its pursuit of deciding exactly what a business district should be.
A proposed municipal service district doesn’t necessarily carry with it an extra tax for properties inside the district, aldermen stressed during the retreat.
Robert Van Geons, executive director of the Salisbury-Rowan Economic Development Commission (Rowan Works), reviewed how his agency can support the town in industrial and retail recruitment.
Van Geons also met with aldermen in an executive session to discuss a property matter.
Alderman Mike Brinkley said his biggest problem when a potential business or industry is looking at Granite Quarry is that “we seem to be the last person to know.”
In response to Van Geons’ encouraging Granite Quarry to be proactive in assembling potential business sites, documenting them and getting the word out about them, Wilhelm said the town might want to consider a research and development committee.
In the end Saturday, the town board came up with five priority goals:
• Preparing zoning and water-and-sewer sites for its EDC link to Rowan Works — Granite Works.
• Establishing a facade and beautification program, leading to a better “welcome mat.”
• The creation of a business district and an industrial district.
• Creating a brand, footprint and mission statement.
• Establishing local/regional events to draw people to the town from other places.
Aldermen delved into numerous other topics at their retreat.
Several items will be placed on agendas of coming meetings. They include a final decision on how to elect a mayor, a proposed golf cart ordinance, whether some types of hunting inside the town limits should be allowed and whether to get rid of work sessions normally held on the Thursday before a Monday meeting. Aldermen next meet March 3.

Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263.

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