Reviving Main Street: A decade of growth

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The Michigan Main Street Center 2011-2012 annual report is out and, after 10 years in existence, programs like Boyne City’s are growing and making a real difference statewide.

By: Benjamin J. Gohs, News Editor
bgohs@boynegazette.com
(231) 222-2119

The Michigan Main Street Center 2011-2012 annual report is out and, after 10 years in existence, programs like Boyne City’s are growing and making a real difference statewide.

According to Executive Director Scott Woosley of the Michigan State Housing Development Authority—the body which oversees Main Street—efforts to help communities enhance the lives of their residents and attract and retain businesses will continue.

“As a team the Michigan Main Street Center provides a high standard of assistance to our communities—and they do this with the highest expectations,” Woosley stated in the report. “Michigan Main Street invests in their staff and outside expertise to bring a high quality of technical services to our communities across the state.”

According to the report, Michigan Main Street has helped its communities generate more than $100 million in private and public investments over the last 10 years.

Further accomplishments from Main Street’s first decade include:

661 new or business expansions;

955 net new jobs;

663 facade rehabilitations;

347,028 volunteer hours;

and 170 new housing units, all downtown.

Established in 2003, the Michigan Main Street program was designed to rejuvenate the historic and traditional commercial districts in Michigan’s downtown areas.

There are currently 41 cities across the state which participate in the Michigan Main Street program.

Last year, Michigan Main Street programs across the state helped develop 89 new businesses, private investment of $28,011,829, public improvements totaling $1,772,313, 115 facade improvements and 71,534 volunteer hours.

This year’s report focused on 16 Main Street communities, including Boyne City.

“While the nation continues to face a recession, most Michigan Main Street Communities have stabilized or increased businesses within the downtown districts preserving and, in some cases, increasing the number of full-time jobs in the core area,” the report stated.

Boyne City Main Street program Manager Hugh Conklin said his program was one of the first in the state, and it will celebrate its 10th year in existence later this June.

“I think it’s done a lot of great things in the past,” Conklin said. “It has created a vibrancy in town, certainly. It has helped property owners improve their buildings which, overall, has improved the downtown community.”

He added, “We have worked hard to improve communication among business owners, community members and the local government and we’re making progress in that area, but work remains.”

According to the Michigan Main Street report, the total amount of private investment in Boyne City last year was $25,200 with a 10-year total of $6,473,431.

The vacancy rate among downtown businesses before Main Street was five percent and today it is at four percent.

The total number of new businesses developed last year was three, with a decade-long total of 55.

There were 4,687 volunteer hours accrued last year which brings the 10-year total to 26,517.

The total number of festivals and events held in Boyne City last year was 15.

Conklin said Boyne City Main Street has also been integral in helping with local infrastructure improvements.

“There has been some really significant investment downtown. The addition of One Water (Street) and Cafe Sante has been a tremendous boost which has helped,” Conklin said. “But, a lot of challenges remain, and we as a program try to focus on those.”
Conklin said areas of attention include the Boyne Theater, Dilworth Hotel, the local economy in general and vacancy on South Lake Street.

“It takes a lot of work to maintain what we’ve got with festivals and events,” Conklin said. “The farmers market continues to grow, Stroll the Streets will be celebrating its 10th anniversary this year and Boyne Thunder continues to grow, so, there are a lot of details.”

Highlights of the report reveal that two facade projects are currently in the works and that Boyne City’s downtown has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Team Boyne has been meeting with business owners in order to identify their needs and provide any assistance necessary in addition to collaborating with schools, manufacturers, government officials and the chamber of commerce to help recruit Precision Edge.

Boyne City Main Street completed its branding project and launched its new web site.

The top goals determined during Main Street’s November 2012 and January 2013 planning sessions are as follows:

  1. Celebrate Main Street’s 10-year anniversary and work on business retention and recruitment
  2. Recruit, manage and retain volunteers
  3. Maintain and enhance existing events and focus on underutilized properties
  4. Restructure organization committee
  5. Promote historic preservation
  6. Sense of place enhancement
  7. Create more efficient office and work on “Localvesting,” which means selling shares to local interests in order to develop local properties. The Main Street program in Tahlequah, Ok., last year considered selling shares to local investors in order to revive their local movie theater.

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