Roann group receives Main Street certificate

Roann Heritage Group members (from left) Barb Burge, Jerry Nelson, JoEllen Nelson and Kathie Grandstaff, accept the Main Street certificate from Andrea Kern, a representative from the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs.. Photo by Joseph Slacian. 

By Joseph Slacian

ROANN – The Town of Roann is now an official Main Street member.

The town received notification in February that it had been approved for the program. Representatives from the Roann Community Heritage Group accepted a certificate indicating its membership in the organization on Monday, June 3, from Andrea Kern, a representative from the Office of Community and Rural Affairs.

Indiana Main Street encourages community driven revitalization of downtown areas in Indiana cities and towns, according to the OCRA web page.

Kern, who is on OCRA’s regional field staff, explained that the regional staff works to connect the local communities with the programs available statewide through OCRA and other agencies.

“We like to say we’re the front door to state government,” she said. “I don’t do a whole lot with Fort Wayne in my region, but pretty much everywhere else is considered rural.”

Representatives of the Roann Community Heritage Group worked about three years to get the town into the Main Street program.

The program was developed in the 1970s in response to urban renewal, Kern said.

“The National Trust for Historic Preservation asked what happens if we come up with a strategy for reinvigorating our historic downtown commercial buildings,” she continued.

Madison was one of the first cities in Indiana to be designated a Main Street program.

“They came up with a four-point strategy,” Kern said. “They are all of the things that we look at when we look at an application.”

The four-point strategy consists of infrastructure, quality of place, economic development and capacity building.
“This community values each other and it values its assets and wants to protect them,” she said. “They have a vision and mission statement, a comprehensive work plan, a historic preservation ethic, which means saving things like the bridge, historic buildings and even Streetscape.”

Main Street programs also must have active boards and committees, a budget, ongoing training and a system to report progress during the year.

“This year, when Main Street is just starting out, you’ll see a series of little projects related to those four points,” Kern said. “Main Street figured out that if you can work these four things, you can have a successful and thriving downtown.

“I really do see that Main Streets that work hard can have a different façade grant program, or different incentives for their business owners who are downtown, like Quickbooks training or vacant store front activation.”

Beautification projects, such as downtown murals or planting flowers, also are successful.

“I know the Main Street is already doing a lot of this,” Kern said, “but we’re going to be working on getting them lots of great ideas and maybe even some funds to help them get to doing some of those.”

Indiana has 134 Main Street communities, the most of any state in the union, she said. Wabash County has three; in addition to Roann, Wabash and North Manchester also have the designation.

“We’re working with all of them on a regular basis to provide technical support for whatever programs or projects or questions they might have,” Kern said. “We have the experience of seeing how this program works all across the state, so we can hopefully connect them with different ideas and resources so they can be successful.”

For every $1 someone invests in a Main Street program, a $56 return on investment is seen.

“That is unheard of in any economic development circle,” Kern said.

Last year, she noted, $20 million was invested in to renovating buildings, with another $165 million put into buildings rehabbed in the Main Street area. There were 536 new business started in downtowns, while another 155 relocated to downtown. There also were 173 expansions.

“This is a program that has been around for 30 years,” Kern said, “and it’s really just such a thing for a community to hang its hat on and advertise that it’s a Main Street community.”

Posted on 2019 Jun 11