After more than two years of preparation, efforts championed by the Marion Chamber of Commerce and community leaders have succeeded with Marion being designated the newest Main Street Iowa community. For more than 26 years, the Main Street Iowa program and its communities have been looked upon as the “best of the best” in a national effort to revitalize main streets across the country. The addition of Marion brings the number of participating Main Street communities in Iowa to 49.
Becoming a designated Main Street Iowa community is no easy task. Community representatives must attend rigorous training sessions before even being eligible to apply. They must demonstrate support from local organizations, businesses, and lawmakers; funding and in-kind support must be secured and documented; strategic plans outlining short- and long-term goals must be in place; and city resolutions and historic preservation ordinances must be passed and signed. Most importantly, community officials, business owners, and volunteers must agree to work together with the common goals of preserving Iowa’s historic buildings and unique commercial business districts, and improving the local economy by adopting and following the Main Street Four Point Approach® to historic commercial district revitalization.
Jill Ackerman, President of the Marion Chamber of Commerce stated, “We are elated to have the opportunity to be part of the Main Street Iowa program. The Main Street Iowa program started in 1985 it has driven over one billion dollars in total private development invested into Iowa’s downtown structures.” Marion looks forward to using the tools and resources available to Main Street Iowa communities to drive the number even higher. Having a person devoted to Uptown development will be beneficial to the entire community. The Main Street program focuses on four key initiatives: Organization, Economic Restructuring, Design and Promotion. “We look forward to using the Main Street approach to strengthen and grow the Uptown area and to build relationships with other Iowa downtown centers.”
While it may be challenging to become a Main Street community, designated communities reap many benefits. During the first three years of the program, a community receives 40 days of on-site training and technical assistance from Main Street Iowa, National Main Street Center staff and private consultants, as well as 30 days of training for volunteers and local staff, resulting in a state investment of $120,000. Mature Main Street communities each receive continuing technical assistance and training valued at $10,000 annually.
Over the years, by working together with the state, Main Street Iowa communities have realized the benefits of more than 2.3 million hours of volunteer time committed to improving their main street districts, a significantly increased job and business base, and over 1.2 billion dollars in private investment to purchase, construct and rehabilitate main street property.