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Letter to the Editor: Support Decorah's Main Street Iowa application

Posted: Tue, Jul 9, 2019 9:05 AM

(The following Letter to the Editor has been submitted by Decorah Main Street Steering Committee Chair Llew Jenkins):

"The Main Street program targets Water Street and College Drive to promote downtown economic development through the context of Historic Preservation and Restoration of buildings, facades and signage.

1. The City's pledged support of the Main Street Iowa application is proposed to come from the receipts of the Hotel Motel lodging tax. This money is restricted by state code to be spent on tourism, marketing, recreation, and recreation facilities. The city council is authorized to spend up to 50 percent for any other purpose and has, since its inception, reserved those funds for parks and recreation and economic development efforts. The Hotel Motel revenues have not been nor are they planned to be used for infrastructure. The City is also not proposing to use property tax revenues to support the Main Street program.

2. The Main Street Decorah Steering Committee has received financial support in the way of pledges and proposed allocations toward the proposed budget that amount to just over 50 percent of Year 1, 60 percent of Year 2, and 75 percent of year 3.

3. In addition, during the start-up phase, Main Street Iowa invests approximately $120,000 in technical assistance and training for local programs.  Throughout the life of a Main Street Program, Main Street Iowa invests an average of $15,000.00 annually.  Decorah pays no fees to Main Street Iowa; all funding remains in Decorah.

4. Decorah's Main Street initiative has been endorsed (to date) by Decorah City Council, Downtown Decorah Betterment, Decorah's Self Supporting Municipal Improvement District (SSMID), Decorah's Historic Preservation Commission, over 30 downtown businesses and building owners, and additional individuals throughout the community.

Here are some facts, through 2018, from the Iowa Economic Development Authority about Main Street Iowa since its inception:

Created more than 4,000 downtown businesses employing an additional 12,000 people.

Assisted in nearly 15,000 building improvement projects that have leveraged over $1.7 billion dollars in private investment.

Each Main Street program is locally powered through human resources and has documented over 3 million volunteer hours.

Main Street has been set up in over 50 Iowa communities.

Main Street was adopted in 1985 by the Iowa legislature and is time tested not only in Iowa but across the nation.

Main Street provides architectural, engineering, and design services to designated Main Street communities, as well as possible grant funding for Historic Preservation only available through Main Street Iowa.

The time is now for Decorah to join this proven program.  Attracting customers and businesses to downtown is not an overnight prospect.  It takes time, resources, structure and accountability all part of the Main Street initiative.  Decorah's downtown was recently named to the National Historic Register; it is incumbent on us, the citizens of Decorah, to embrace Historic Preservation and the resources to make it happen provided by Main Street Iowa."

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