NASHVILLE—The Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development is partnering with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) to launch the “IDEA Initiative” that will assist Tennessee Main Street designated programs in setting achievable, effective and sustainable development objectives. There are currently 27 Main Street communities across Tennessee, including Cookeville and McMinnville in the Upper Cumberland.
IDEA stands for “Ignite Downtown Economic Action.” The initiative will provide each participating community with an assessment and a set of specific recommendations for economic development based on the National Main Street Center’s four point model: design; economic restructuring; organization; and promotion.
“We are pleased to partner with the United States Department of Agriculture and the Appalachian Regional Commission on this innovative and exciting new program,” TNECD Commissioner Bill Hagerty said. “Tennessee’s downtown districts are the backbones of our communities, fostering job growth and revitalization efforts. This new program is a welcome addition to the efforts our Main Street communities make on a daily basis to further economic development.”
“Vibrant downtowns are valuable community assets because of the way they contribute to local economies,” Tennessee Main Street Director Todd Morgan added. “Main Street programs work with small businesses and entrepreneurs every day and the IDEA Initiative will assist them with creating a downtown environment conducive for successful businesses and job creation.”
USDA Rural development State Director Bobby Goode said that the three partner agencies are contributing a combined $121,500 to fund the initiative.
“The amount of money invested for each town may seem pretty small, but by working together at the state, local and federal levels we leverage each other’s strengths for this next step and future steps that grow out of the plans each community makes as a result of the IDEA Initiative,” Goode said.
The National Main Street Center will utilize Barman Development Strategies LLC to help each community identify the strengths of its downtown, market position and a specific development need or opportunity that exists. The process will include public workshops in each community throughout 2014.
The IDEA Initiative will sharpen the focus on the role of local Main Street programs as drivers and contributors to comprehensive local economic development efforts. This proven strategy works by strengthening local Main Street teams, improving action plans, increasing understanding and confidence in Main Street districts for investors, and developing economic restructuring resources and reference tools for each local programs.
In 2012, designated Main Street communities generated more than $82 million of public/private investment and created 604 new jobs. Main Street programs are located in Bristol, Cleveland, Collierville, Columbia, Cookeville, Dandridge, Dayton, Dyersburg, Fayetteville, Franklin, Gallatin, Greeneville, Jackson, Jonesborough, Kingsport, Lawrenceburg, Lebanon, Leiper’s Fork, McMinnville, Morristown, Murfreesboro, Ripley, Rogersville, Savannah, Sweetwater, Tiptonville and Union City.