BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – The Fort Madison Main Street program was honored by the state on Friday after surpassing $3 million in local investments since the program was readmitted to the state’s Main Street program in 2009.
But more than $1 million of that investment happened in the last calendar year, movement that Fort Madison Main Street Director Cassie Gilbert said is very indicative of the progress happening downtown.
“Main Street Iowa has specific milestones they like you to hit and it took us from 2009 to 2017 to hit the $2 million mark in private and grant investments, things like that. But from January 2017 to December 2017, we added another million,” she said.
She said that doesn’t include work being done by Barker Financial of Iowa City on the former Cattermole Library or the old Lee County Bank building. Gilbert said she doesn’t include those investments until the projects are completed.
She said the next milestone is $5 million and when those projects are completed, the investments will go toward reaching that milestone. She said the vast majority of the recent surge has been building sales.
For the year, the Fort Madison Main Street program saw $47,500 invested in projects, which includes rehab projects and new construction. It also saw 12 district properties purchased and $1,031,220 in acquisitions. They also logged 599 volunteer hours, and 22 new jobs were created.
Lori Illner, who serves as the board’s secretary and volunteers on many projects with the local Main Street group, was given one of Main Street Iowa’s community Volunteer of the Year awards.
“She’s a board member and a member of the Economic Vitality committee,” Gilbert said. “She’s one of those members who’s reaching out to potential business owners to open up here. She’s involved in our wine walk, Big Buckle Bash, and she’s always picking up marketing materials when she travels so we can learn about what other communities are doing to promote their downtown. She’s just a good overall volunteer. If we need something we call her and she’s always wiling to help.”
Main Street Iowa hosted the 32nd annual Main Street Iowa Awards celebration on Friday at Hoyt Sherman Place in Des Moines.
Main Street Iowa has annually presented awards honoring outstanding accomplishments, activities, and people making a difference in Main Street districts throughout the state. Projects large and small are recognized and serve as outstanding examples of what historic commercial district revitalization is all about.
Gilbert, Stephanie Knoch (Board President), Lori Illner (Board Secretary), and Eric Greene represented Fort Madison Main Street.
“The Main Street Iowa program is a powerful catalyst for local revitalization and community investment,” said Governor Kim Reynolds. “As I travel across the state, I see over and over that Main Streeters are passionate, innovative, and creative. They’re also committed to making their downtowns – and our state – a stronger, more sustainable place to live, work and raise a family.”
In 1985, the Iowa Legislature adopted the National Main Street Center’s Four Point Approach® to district revitalization by establishing Main Street Iowa within the agency that is now the Iowa Economic Development Authority. Since its inception, the state program and its communities have been considered examples of excellence in the national effort to revitalize historic commercial districts across the country.
Since 1986, local Main Street programs have made a significant impact on Iowa’s economy, resulting in: The inception of 4,670 new businesses and a net gain of 14,348 jobs; nearly 12,000 building projects reported, totaling a private investment of over $1.85 billion dollars; more than 3 million hours of human capital equating to over $72 million dollars in time and talents, according to the Independent Sector’s estimated value of a volunteer hour.
For more information about Main Street Iowa and how all Iowa communities can access commercial revitalization assistance through the IDRC, visit iowaeconomicdevelopment.com/MainStreetIowa, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 515.348.6184.