Becoming An All-America City

Chamber of Commerce

Thomasville, NC is an All-America City!”

As a Chamber Executive, this is one of my favorite things to say. The National Civic League presents only 10 All-America City awards each year and after much hard work, Thomasville earned that designation in 2013.

The All-America City award recognizes communities that bring unique solutions through partnerships and citizen engagement to community problem solving. Award winners have acknowledged community challenges and demonstrated success through specific projects. Winning communities must apply, plan and provide a 10-minute presentation, and answer questions from a jury panel. Most communities must conduct a fundraising drive to pay the expenses of their delegation to travel and attend the All-America City conference site for several days.

You might think that Convergent Nonprofit Solutions helped us raise these travel funds and that that is why this article is on their blog. That’s not the case. We did, however, hire Convergent in 2009 to lead our Chamber through a $1,000,000 capital campaign titled “Thomasville On the Move.” Yes, during the depth of the Great Recession, we conducted a successful capital campaign.

So, what does that have to do with All-America City? Promotion and marketing were key components that our capital campaign funded. In order to have a chance at becoming an All-­America City, we needed to get Thomasville back on the map and let the world know that we remained open for business. Another element of the campaign was community visioning and strategic planning. With some of the resources secured during the campaign, we were able engage a broad spectrum of the community and create an eight-year plan with 32 specific strategies for growth and improvement. This aggressive plan, created with community input, helped us to stand out amongst the rest of the All-­America City competition.

One of those strategies was rebranding. We’re proud of our furniture heritage, but we wanted to enhance our community brand as much more than just furniture. Being named an All-America City was a huge step forward and has put us on the national stage.

Thanks to the funds raised for “Thomasville On the Move,” we have been able to execute our eight-year plan. We’re experiencing a bump in business. 2013 out-paced 2012 and 2011 when measuring new business investments, and those years were certainly ahead of their previous years. Our Mayor has reported an increase in calls and inquiries directly to his office, specifically as a result of the award. And we’re moving forward with our rebranding project.

To put this in context, in the past five years, we have:

  • Conducted a $1,000,000 capital campaign
  • Developed a broad consensus-built community vision and strategic plan with full engagement and buy-in from elected officials and the business community
  • Launched half of the 32 strategies of the 8-year plan
  • Received the All-America City Award!

All of which started during one of the worst economic climates our nation has ever seen. It is a great example of the power of collaboration with all key stakeholders.