February 28, 2014
The Winchester Downtown Program Corporation’s committee members are hoping that downtown Winchester will soon be on the list of the state’s Main Street communities.
“We turned in an application to the state on Dec. 20 of last year, and we expect to hear something by May,” WDPC executive director Jerry Sharber said.
Most Franklin County residents are aware that in the past few years, Winchester’s nineblock downtown area has received a facelift of sorts through a state initiative called the Downtown Revitalization Project, which takes a percentage of the sales tax dollars spent downtown and enables a city to use it toward renovating the downtown area.
Sharber stated, now that the downtown has been updated, becoming a Main Street community would further benefit the city by putting Winchester on the map, so to speak.
“What the revitalization did is change the physical appearance of downtown, and my predecessor Bill Cowan and the WDPC board worked hard on accomplishing that,” he said. “But we’ve always envisioned that the city would become a Main Street community because it has value from the perspective of attracting more people, businesses and events to the city. These are the kinds of things that people like to see in a revitalized downtown.”
According to Sharber, who took the position of executive director of the WDPC almost a year ago, it was one of his main goals to get an application submitted to the state. And it seems as if the city will have a good chance at making the cut.
“It’s not really a commitment, but Winchester has recently been included in communications with the state, and we’ve been able to see what being part of the program will mean,” Sharber said.
In January, Sharber attended a meeting in which he learned more about the objectives of the state’s Main Street Program.
“The Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development is partnering with the United States Department of Agriculture and the Appalachian Regional Commission to launch the ]IDEA Initiative’ that will assist Tennessee Main Street designated programs in setting achievable, effective and sustainable development objectives.
According to the release, IDEA stands for “Ignite Downtown Economic Action,” and the initiative will provide each participating community with an assessment and a set of specific recommendations for economic development based on the National Main Street Center’s Four Point® model: design; economic restructuring; organization; and promotion.
There are 27 Main Street communities across Tennessee, one of the closest to Winchester being Fayetteville.
In a recent release TNECD Commissioner Bill Hagerty said the state is excited to continue supporting cities and their downtowns.
“We are pleased to partner with the United States Department of Agriculture and the Appalachian Regional Commission on this innovative and exciting new program,” Hagerty said. “Tennessee’s downtown districts are the backbones of our communities, fostering job growth and revitalization efforts.
“This new program is a welcome addition to the efforts our Main Street communities make on a daily basis to further economic development.”
Tennessee Main Street director Todd Morgan further explained that successful downtown districts are vital to the state.
“Vibrant downtowns are valuable community assets because of the way they contribute to local economies,” Morgan said. “Main Street programs work with small businesses and entrepreneurs every day and the IDEA Initiative will assist them with creating a downtown environment conducive for successful businesses and job creation.”
USDA Rural development State Director Bobby Goode said that the three partner agencies are contributing a combined $121,500 to fund the initiative.
“The amount of money invested for each town may seem pretty small, but by working together at the state, local and federal levels we leverage each other’s strengths for this next step and future steps that grow out of the plans each community makes as a result of the IDEA Initiative,” Goode said.
The National Main Street Center will use Barman Development Strategies, LLC to help each community identify the strengths of its downtown, market position and a specifi c development need or opportunity that exists. The process will include public workshops in each community throughout 2014.
The IDEA Initiative will sharpen the focus on the role of local Main Street programs as drivers and contributors to comprehensive local economic development efforts. This proven strategy works by strengthening local Main Street teams, improving action plans, increasing understanding and confidence in Main Street districts for investors, and developing economic restructuring resources and reference tools for each local programs.
In 2012, designated Main Street communities generated more than $82 million of public/private investment and created 604 new jobs.
Main Street programs are located in Bristol, Cleveland, Collierville, Columbia, Cookeville, Dandridge, Dayton, Dyersburg, Fayetteville, Franklin, Gallatin, Greeneville, Jackson, Jonesborough, Kingsport, Lawrenceburg, Lebanon, Leiper’s Fork, McMinnville, Morristown, Murfreesboro, Ripley, Rogersville, Savannah, Sweetwater, Tiptonville and Union City.