CABARRUS COUNTY, NC – Visitors trying to navigate Cabarrus County—and the occasional local, as well—will now have an easier time getting to area attractions.
The county unveiled one of its 58 new wayfinding signs in a ceremony Thursday, Nov. 30, culminating a two-year project aimed at improving tourism and drawing people to not only sites of interest but the five municipal downtowns.
“This is an exciting day,” Donna Carpenter, president and CEO of the Cabarrus County Convention and Visitors Bureau, said. “Signs are normally not that exciting, but I’ll tell you that this has been a project in the making.”
The CVB included wayfinding signs in its 2020 vision plan drawn up back in 2011. Such a system would help increase travel confidence and connectivity to the many downtown areas, the organization said, looking at how to connect visitors and residents alike with the broader community and many things to do in Cabarrus County.
The two-year wayfinding project was also paid for in part by the visitors it will serve.
“The visitors are the reason that we’re here,” John Mills, executive vice president of the CVB, said. “It’s the visitors through occupancy tax that helped us fund this phase. So we’re very thankful for them and all that they provide for our economy, tax relief for our residents. That’s what we’re hoping this wayfinding system is going to do.”
CVB staff and, local officials and other interested parties gathered Thursday at the corner of Weddington Road and Bruton Smith Boulevard to reveal the first of the signs. The remaining 57 will go up within the next month.
“It’s very important,” Carpenter said. “When we interact with a visitor and we say, ‘Do you know where Concord is?’ they think [Concord Mills] is Concord. And it is Concord, but it’s not downtown Concord. And they don’t know where Kannapolis is. And they don’t know Mt. Pleasant and Midland. So we need to make sure that we can get them out there and create a sense of place for our visitors and confidence that they’re going in the right direction.”
But tying all the different partners into a cohesive wayfinding system took some teamwork. County commissioners voted to take over the countywide signs and maintain them going forward after the CVB finishes installing them. Municipalities collaborated with the visitor’s bureau and county folk to make sure their downtown wayfinding signs complemented those in the unincorporated areas and vice versa.
“The goal of this wayfinding system is to help people get to area attractions and to the downtown cores,” Mills said. “So where our system will finish off, the downtown core systems will pick up. So we had to work together so that they did not overlap. So, again, a lot of collaboration had to go into play to make that happen.”
Concord, Kannapolis and Harrisburg have already installed their own wayfinding system in their respective downtowns.
“With the county system going in today, we’ll have four systems out of the six in place,” Mills said. “A year ago, there was no wayfinding anywhere inside this county, so tremendous. Thanks to everyone who went ahead and made that happen. This has been a very exciting project for us. We are very excited to be a part of it.”
Tourism certainly plays a big role in Cabarrus County. According to Visit North Carolina, domestic visitors spent $433.03 million in Cabarrus County in 2016, and the county ranks 12th in travel impact among the 100 North Carolina counties.
“Tourism is a big, big, big business here in Cabarrus County,” Terry Crawford, chair of the Cabarrus County Wayfinding Committee, said. “It’s a major contributor to our economy, keeping our taxes down and keeping them low. This wayfinding project behind me is just another step in understanding tourism here in Cabarrus County and making Cabarrus County a national best in class destination.”
Erin Weeks | Independent Tribune