City Planner gives presentation on Main Street program

Members of the Elizabethton Chamber of Commerce gathered at the Coffee Company Thursday morning to hear a presentation on current progress on the Main Street program as well as to hear the specifics of what the program is all about.

City Planner Jon Hartman said the purpose of the nation-wide program does not focus on one specific area; it is holistic.

“They use a transformation strategy,” Hartman said.

This strategy has four main divisions: Promotion, Economic Vitality, Organization and Design. It is not enough to focus on merely one of these areas. For such a program to be successful, Hartman said downtown businesses need to consider all of these, like shopping malls do.

“It is like mall management,” he said. “They are constantly giving you a reason to stay at the mall.”

When asked how the Main Street program encourages these improvements across the board, Hartman said there is little official “enforcing” of policies. While he said he “had no doubt” some policy measures would go through city council within the next few months, he said the program’s main goal is to encourage businesses to attract investors.

“This is the community’s downtown,” Hartman said. “You could say this is Carter County’s downtown.”

When asked, Hartman said he had not yet reached out to the county commission about possible support from the county, but he said it was a goal.

Another goal of the Thursday meeting was to encourage volunteers for the four leadership boards, especially a main street director.

“The city has committed $53,000 for this director,” Hartman said.

Applications closed at the end of Monday, Aug. 19. From here, he said they will begin narrowing down the number of candidates.

Hartman said the program is not just for businesses; anyone who is interested can choose to participate.

“We are not focused on just downtown,” he said. “If you pay your dues, you are in.”

These dues will include $50 per individual or $75 per family, $120 per business smaller than 11 employees, $250 per business with between 11 and 24 employees, $500 per business of between 25 and 49 employees and $1,000 per corporations with 50 or more employees. These fees are annual.

Members will also require a time commitment as well, with four hours per member and eight hours per board member.

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