Local programs impact economy

Local programs impact economy

By KEVIN BOWDEN Staff Reporter

 A new state report shows Tennessee’s 24 Main Street communities generated more than $82 million in public and private investment in 2012 and continue to be a vital part of the state’s economic and cultural identity. The 2012 Economic Impact and Reinvestment Statistics report was released Monday by the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development. Union City is one of 24 certified Main Street communities in Tennessee. Since 1990, the local program has been dedicated to revitalizing downtown Union City. The project was originally launched as the Downtown Action Committee by downtown merchant Lyda Rice, who served two years as the first executive director of Main Street. Glenda Chrisp took over the program in 1993 and served as executive director for 17 years. Phyllis Rauchle has been serving as the Main Street executive director since September 2010. She tracks downtown economic development as part of her job and her statistics from 2012 show five downtown businesses closed that year (11 jobs lost) while 19 businesses opened downtown (52 jobs gained). In addition to the 41 net new jobs created in 2012 and the 14 net new businesses that year, Mrs. Rauchle said there were 34 public improvement projects and 38 private improvement projects documented in 2012. There were 4,750 volunteer hours contributed for downtown projects and nearly $420,165 total public/private investment made in downtown Union City. Mrs. Rauchle’s Main Street office is located at the back of the new Sugar & Spice women’s clothing store downtown. From her office, Mrs. Rauchle and her network of volunteers worked on several key projects in 2012, including the Christmas tree lighting on the courthouse square, the Christmas open house weekend, trick-or-treating downtown, the establishment of Wi-Fi access in Kiwanis Park, an Earth Day event in Kiwanis Park, the Taste of Ken-Tenn and Sidewalk Saturday. “Downtown continues to do well, despite the flat economy and high unemployment in the area,” Mrs. Rauchle said. “We’ve got a lot of projects and events going on. Downtown Union City is continuing to evolve,” she said. Downtown Union City’s prosperity and appearance has been greatly enhanced through the local Main Street program. During the year 2012, Main Street funded a variety of capital improvements in the downtown business district, including downtown signs, decorative street lamps, iron benches, new trees, iron trash receptacles, landscaping work and a community events kiosk in Merchants Park. As for jobs, Mrs. Rauchle said the downtown business district employs 1,180 people. Looking to the future, the local Main Street program has applied for a $25,000 federal grant that, if approved, would provide funding to enhance building facades in the downtown area. “We’re really excited about this grant,” Mrs. Rauchle said. “We received more than 15 community support letters and I’ve been thrilled by the response so far.” On the state level, Tennessee’s 24 Main Street programs were responsible for the creation of 604 net new jobs, 107 net new businesses, 207 building rehabilitation projects, 304 public improvement projects and 273 net new housing units, according to the 2012 state report. The report also documents 117,253 volunteer hours were contributed to Main Street projects in 2012, representing a 13 percent increase over the previous year. The total public/private investment in the state from Main Street projects in 2012 amounted to $82,742,898. “Continued growth and a strong foundation at a local level contributes to Tennessee’s overall livability and can greatly factor into a company’s relocation or expansion decision,” state Commissioner Bill Hagerty said. “The Main Street program facilitates focused revitalization in downtown commercial districts by providing jobs, growing the tax base and reinforcing Tennessee’s competitive lead among Southeastern states.” Tennessee Main Street provides technical assistance and guidance for communities in developing common sense solutions to make downtowns safe, appealing, vibrant places where folks want to shop, live and make memories. “The annual reinvestment statistics make a strong statement about the economic activity occurring within our Tennessee Main Street program districts,” Community Development Program Director for Tennessee Main Street Todd Morgan said. “New jobs, businesses and investment, along with an impressive number of volunteer work hours, prove this community-based approach to downtown revitalization is hard at work.” Elsewhere across West Tennessee, there are certified Main Street communities in Tiptonville, Dyersburg, Jackson, Ripley, Collierville and Savannah. Staff Reporter Kevin Bowden may be contacted by email at kmbowden@ucmessenger.com. Published in The Messenger 5.1.13

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