Under the Dome

McCrory takes credit for NC House’s downtown grant program

Smithfield was among the 13 downtowns that received a grant thanks to a last-minute N.C. House budget allocation
Smithfield was among the 13 downtowns that received a grant thanks to a last-minute N.C. House budget allocation clowenst@newsobserver.com

In the final hours of budget negotiations last year, state House leaders added $1.25 million for “downtown revitalization” in 13 towns – most of which were represented by powerful legislators or close allies of Speaker Tim Moore.

On Wednesday, Gov. Pat McCrory issued a news release taking credit for the budget allocation. His news release said the grants were “part of a downtown revitalization package totaling $1.2 million that Governor McCrory secured in the state budget.”

The news release quotes McCrory saying that the grants will “help transform Main Streets into points of pride that will contribute to the economic success of communities across our state.”

The News & Observer wrote about the allocation in October. At the time, House budget writer Nelson Dollar told The N&O that the money was Moore’s idea.

“In the budget process, very late, the speaker found that we had a little bit of money left,” Dollar said in October. “I think the speaker thought that it would be best used to assist some of these rural downtowns that these communities had.”

About 15 minutes after this story was published online Wednesday morning, McCrory spokesman Graham Wilson called The N&O to defend the governor’s role in the grants.

“It’s in the budget the governor signed,” Wilson said. “The whole point is he signs the budget.”

Two of the towns are in Moore’s district. And some of the towns receiving the funds said they hadn’t asked for money and weren’t sure how they’d use the windfall.

McCrory’s announcement offers more details about how the grant money will be used. Dunn plans to build new sidewalks and curbs. Kings Mountain – Moore’s hometown – is considering a smartphone app to promote downtown businesses.

Some plans, however, still aren’t specific. The governor’s office says Pembroke’s share “will be leveraged to support and implement the city’s downtown master plan.”

The grants sidestepped the state’s existing program to help downtowns. The Department of Commerce closely tracks grants made through the Main Street Solutions Fund, which requires a detailed application. The department estimates that every dollar spent on its grants generates $6.35 in new investments in the community.

Colin Campbell: 919-829-4698, @RaleighReporter