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Three Main Street America Staff members standing in front of a mural in Marion, Iowa.

Marion, Iowa © Tasha Sams

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We work in collaboration with thousands of local partners and grassroots leaders across the nation who share our commitment to advancing shared prosperity, creating resilient economies, and improving quality of life.

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Two community members in Emporia Kansas pose with a sign saying "I'm a Main Streeter"

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Made up of small towns, mid-sized communities, and urban commercial districts, the thousands of organizations, individuals, volunteers, and local leaders that make up Main Street America™ represent the broad diversity that makes this country so unique.

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August 23, 2017 | Community Spotlight | Morganton, North Carolina

BeerAdvocateCover127.jpgThe craft beer industry is playing a key role in the rebirth of Main Streets and neighborhood commercial districts across the county. This month's issue of BeerAdvocate magazine features three Main Street America communities—Morganton, N.C., Danville, Va. & Mount Airy, N.C.—in it's cover article on the "economic allure of brewing" for small towns. Read on for a great summation of the impact Fonta Flora Brewery has made on downtown Morganton from the Morganton Downtown Development Association and the City of Morganton.

Cover photo (right) courtesy of BeerAdvocate Magazine.

National Magazine Says Transformation is Brewing in Morganton

MORGANTON, N.C. – The transformation on tap in downtown Morganton has captured the attention of a national magazine. In its August cover story, BeerAdvocate touts the economic impact breweries have made in three Southern small towns.

Morganton’s Fonta Flora Brewery is one of the prime examples cited in the article, and Fonta Flora’s head brewer and co-founder Todd Boera is featured on the cover.

The article reveals how the arrival of craft breweries in places like Morganton, Danville, Va., and Mount Airy, N.C., has spurred growth and vitality in the urban core of towns struggling in the post-manufacturing South.

Fonta Flora debuted in late 2013, giving Morganton its second craft brewery to go along with Catawba Brewing Company (2009). Since its inception in 2013, Fonta Flora has twice won gold medals at the Great American Beer Festival. It also created the annual State of Origin Beer Festival in Morganton in 2014, which focuses on craft beers brewed in North Carolina.

People flock to Fonta Flora from across the country for tastings and to purchase special releases. And in May, the brewery was named Burke County’s Attraction of the Year for 2017.

As Fonta Flora has expanded in an under-utilized section of North Green Street, it has generated other activity, including the planned conversion of an older building into apartments.

“Fonta Flora has become one of our strongest attractions and helped changed the face of downtown,” says Sharon Jablonski, Main Street Director for the City of Morganton. “It has re-energized that side of town. You can see it from the new investment happening there and the new businesses wanting to come to North Green Street. That whole area has just thrived.”

Jablonski says that section of downtown Morganton will add six new businesses by next year, in addition to the apartment conversion project.

“I never thought I would see this. It’s something you only dream of,” says Jablonski, who’s been in her position for 25 years. “It means a great deal when a national magazine showcases Morganton and people can see what is happening in our downtown. I think people are going to be really surprised over the next 24 months because there is a lot more coming.”

David Bennett, who co-founded Fonta Flora with his brother Mark Bennett, and Boera, says the brewery team is both proud and humbled by the national publicity in BeerAdvocate, which he describes as the “gold standard” in the beer industry.

"I wouldn't say we're the only thing that is pushing things in a positive direction in Morganton. There are a lot of great things happening, but it’s one of the more visible things as far as an alternate form of traditional tourism,” Bennett says. “We're bringing people off the interstate and they are coming here for us. They are making the drive from as close as Asheville and Charlotte to as far away as across the country in some cases, to come to Morganton to visit Fonta Flora.”

Bennett says the brewery owes a lot of its success to strong support from local and regional government, as well as civic leaders.

"The key for a business like us to survive and thrive in a small community is buy-in from the local community and local government at the city and county levels,” Bennett explains. “A lot of the renaissance of downtown Morganton has been driven by local government being progressive in a sense that they’re open to new ideas and willing to listen to alternate theories for development.”

Mark and David Bennett are natives who have spent most of their lives in the area. Their passion for the brewery transcends just beer. It has pumped life into the local economy, thus illustrating the article’s postulate of what brewing can do in smaller communities.

David Bennett remembers the 1990s and early 2000s and the impact of off-shoring of manufacturing jobs in his hometown.

“When you re-invent yourself, you’ve got to look at different things as far as what’s going to drive the local economy. For us we’ve got a great mixture of dining and drinking establishments downtown,” he says. “Even when things were going well here 20-30 years ago with manufacturing, things like higher-end restaurants would not have survived. Now we have a handful that have been here for many years and continue to do well. We’re actually seeing people from other places coming into Morganton to go out on the town for the evening, so those are great positives to see.”

The article was written by Jason Roth, a freelance writer based in North Carolina. He writes about how municipalities of all sizes hope that breweries can succeed by bringing together different populations and customer bases to create tangible change.

Roth interviewed Morganton City Manager Sally Sands, and she summed up the situation perfectly: “There’s now this synergy among the breweries, our bottle shops, and restaurants, that creates a buzz because people who enjoy craft beer often talk to each other and share these kinds of experiences. This is a kind of lifestyle that younger folks almost demand and they’re teaching some of us older folks that maybe we want that kind of thing, too.”