Farmville - Homegrown Tools

Farmville, NC

Updated: 2022

A historically tobacco-dependent community, Farmville ensures its long-term vitality through diversification. Today, furniture, health care, construction, warehousing and service industries can all be found thriving in this small North Carolina town. Farmville invests in local businesses and schools, and markets itself to new industries and residents.

Median Household Income2020$46,719
Poverty Rate 202019.6%
Proximity to Urban Center 15 miles to Greenville, N.C.
Proximity to Interstate Highway 25 miles
Case Study Time Frame 1998-2007
Municipal Budget FY202220.2 million
Data Source: US Census, American Community Survey
View Complete Case StudyUpdated: Farmville, 2022


In 2004, Farmville was a finalist in the National Civic League’s All American City competition. Residents of this small rural community boast about their town’s big-city amenities, which include an active cultural scene with live performing arts, a bustling Main Street and an innovative four-campus public school. Farmville’s recent success has not come without hard work and innovative thinking. Facing declines in traditional industry, this small town – once at the center of the national tobacco industry – diversified and expanded its economy to an extent that makes it the envy of much larger urban neighbors. Through an intensive branding and marketing campaign, coupled with aggressive support for existing businesses, Farmville has become a beacon of hope in the golden leaf tobacco country of eastern North Carolina.


What are the lessons learned from this story?


Respond quickly to local business and industry. Leaders in Farmville, including the mayor, town manager and the executive director of FDP, respond promptly when industries ask for assistance. In 2006, Alliance One was struggling to hire a sufficient workforce. Managers from the company called the town manager and asked if he could help. By the next afternoon, the town had assembled a team of local, regional and state-level workforce resources to assist the company. A few days later, a regional job fair allowed Alliance One to fill its vacancies. “The town’s response – and particularly the fact that busy people set aside whatever they were doing to help – demonstrated to us that the town cared about our business and could help,” an Alliance One manager said.

Small towns can maintain their character in the face of growth pressures. According to Mayor Evans, the question that Farmville asks is: “How can we use the urban growth from Greenville to our advantage, rather than let it consume us?” Through aggressive marketing, events promotion and determination to develop on its own terms, Farmville has maintained its identity. The town has no interest in becoming a bedroom community. Rather than passively react to the growth from Greenville, Farmville supports and promotes local business growth while also working with residential developers to meet the growing demand for homes and neighborhoods.

Embrace change and evolve. Ever since the 1950s, Farmville has put itself on the front end of shifting economic circumstances. For example, local tobacco barons were willing to adapt and diversify at a time when such behavior was unheard of in other parts of eastern North Carolina. Over time, Farmville’s willingness and ability to change and evolve, rather than to get comfort- able and stagnate, has allowed new and innovative approaches to local development to take root.

Never wait for help when you can help yourself. Farmville is not a town that waits around for help to come from the outside. For example, when Hurricane Floyd flooded a residential section of Farmville in 1999, the town purchased 16 residential properties and turned the area into a public park with trails, recreational amenities and exercise equipment. Farmville was the first community to take a proactive and long-term approach to responding to the disaster.

Use multiple tools to achieve multiple outcomes. Farmville employs a variety of incentive configurations that are customized to a particular project. The town will provide incentives for not only job creation, but retail locations on Main Street, facade/property upgrades and residential development. A diverse and customized incentive toolbox is ideal.