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Town of Clayton Departure Triggers Revisioning of Downtown/Economic Development Initiatives


It takes both an appreciation of the past – and a vision for the future – to make a downtown work.

When the Town of Clayton hired Kaitlin Crocker three years ago, they welcomed a Downtown Development Coordinator who had lived her downtown’s transformation firsthand. A 3rd-generation Clayton Comet, she’d experienced a time when few counted Main Street as their first choice to grab a bite to eat or get your shopping done. But recently, she’d also witnessed the beginnings of an exciting revitalization. In her new job, she set out to further change perceptions of her hometown, expanding downtown promotion and activities, like concerts and movie nights, to attract young crowds and more families. 

This month, the chance to work with family and further hone her marketing skills, is luring her to a new job with MSA, a Raleigh marketing firm founded by her mother, Jan Johnson. The ECU grad got her start out of college as a radio marketing account executive with Curtis Media Group, and now she’s excited to be returning to Raleigh to tailor custom marketing campaigns for large clients.

“I’m not leaving Clayton, but this was a career opportunity I could not pass up,” said Kaitlin. “In my time here, I’ve gotten to know the downtown community and met so many hard-working business owners and volunteers. I am so impressed with how much of their time, money and hearts they invest in downtown. I love this town. My mom, grandparents, and dozens of my extended family participated in Clayton’s Centennial celebration in 1969. I was excited to be working with our staff to plan the 150th this year. Even though I will no longer have a formal role, I plan to be a big part of the anniversary and carry on my family’s tradition of participating.” 

As Clayton continued to experience phenomenal growth, Crocker’s position evolved into the Town’s new Economic Development Specialist – working to not only further downtown, but all business efforts in town. 

“Kaitlin grew professionally, just as her duties grew,” said Economic Development Director Dave DeYoung. “She wowed us all when she successfully managed our hosting of the 2018 North Carolina Main Street Conference, bringing more than 500 downtown professionals from all over the state. It was the largest conference for the organization to date and it was a huge success. That growth and leadership are why Kaitlin was recognized as the Town of Clayton’s Employee of the Year this past November.” 

Downtown Clayton and its historic buildings and hometown feel continue to anchor the Town of Clayton. The vacancy now created is giving Town leaders and the burgeoning Economic Development office an opportunity to reassess the needs of the growing business community. Town Council is hosting its annual planning retreat at the end of the month and plans to brainstorm and share ideas on how to capitalize on today’s rapidly changing business landscape and more closely align with town’s priorities for future growth. 

Clayton, Johnston County’s fastest growing municipality, serves as the western gateway to the county and is well positioned strategically to the exponential growth happening in the Raleigh region. The new Economic Development Office works closing with the Clayton Chamber of Commerce and the Johnston County Economic Development Office to offer development resources and information, partner with marketing and recruitment for the area, and more importantly, continue to build relationships with the small, independently-owned businesses to the multi-billion-dollar global companies who make Clayton home.  

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