Town of Valdese
Located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Valdese as founded in the late 19th century by the Waldenses, a religious group whose members had fled persecution in Europe. In the 20th century, the town became a textile center, but that economy dwindled as the century closed out. With the help of NC STEP, Valdese is using its scenic setting to attract retirees and second-home buyers.
Snapshot before NC STEP
The decline of the textile industry hurt Valdese on several fronts. The town lost more than 1,000 jobs in a single decade. The textile mills also were major customers for the town's utilities. With their departure, Valdese also lost $500,000 in utility revenue as well as jobs and tax base.
Valdese recognized the need to transition to a more diverse economy, including niche industries suited for the area, small business development, tourism and support for existing industry. It participated in the development of a county industrial park and helped recruit industry for vacant buildings. It developed plans to convert one textile plant into a multi-use facility, a "Buy in Burke" campaign, and incentives for building restoration. The town also has hired a full-time tourism director.
Goals through NC STEP
Through NC STEP, the town and community leadership team have chosen to further diversify the economy by recruiting second-home buyers and retirees. In addition, Valdese established the Valdese Economic Development Investment Corp. to support and grow entrepreneurship and small businesses in the area. The development group has established itself as a nonprofit and will set up a revolving loan fund to assist small businesses.
Visit the Valdese website - http://www.ci.valdese.nc.us/
Valdese shows off its history in a downtown mural, shown here behind town manager Jeff Morse. The NC STEP team is focused on diversifying an economy once dominated by textiles.