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Nathan Baker

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Jonesborough making most of Main Street program opportunity

March 27th, 2014 9:46 pm by Nathan Baker

Jonesborough making most of Main Street program opportunity

Tennessee’s oldest town could soon be contributing new investment dollars and jobs to the state’s revitalization statistics.

According to information released Wednesday by the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, the downtown areas of 23 accredited Tennessee Main Street communities created 646 jobs, undertook 273 building-rehabilitation projects and brought in nearly $60 million of public and private investment in 2013.

Jonesborough was designated as a Main Street program community in June, but wasn’t included in the latest impact statistics, because the town hasn’t yet completed the full year of participation required by the National Main Street Center for accreditation.

Still, local Main Street Program Director Melinda Copp said the municipality is taking full advantage of the Main Street program.

“The Tennessee and national Main Street programs have a four-point approach to making sure communities have well-rounded downtowns,” Copp said Thursday. “We have our main board together, and we’re working on the four subcommittees to focus on those main aspects.”

The four trademarked tenets of the National Main Street Center’s approach to rebuild downtown districts are organization, promotion, design and economic restructuring.

With high-profile events each year, the town has the promotion aspect covered, Copp said, and with the recent streetscape work, design can be checked off the list.

A major focus of the town’s Main Street efforts will center on economic restructuring — retaining existing businesses and growing the economy.

“We have some empty storefronts right now, so we’re aiming at filling those with the kinds of businesses we would like to bring to the downtown area,” Copp said. “We’re trying to gather all the information on what’s available and what businesses are already here, so that when people come to us looking to locate here, we can contact the building owners and make the whole process easier for them.”

Since achieving the Main Street program community designation last year, she said Jonesborough has already been reaping the benefits of the program.

Local members have attended conferences and education opportunities in the state, networking with professionals and their counterparts in other communities.

Through the organization, Main Street National Trust for Historic Preservation staff member Todd Barman will visit Jonesborough soon to tour the town and analyze its economic growth potential.

“He will be very helpful to us to be able to guide us and tell us what development opportunities we have,” Copp said.

The town’s program is currently in the early visionary stages, and Copp said there are still open seats on the four Main Street subcommittees.

“Anyone interested in those four areas are more than welcome to join,” she said. “Would be great if people interested in being part of this growth would contact us. We want fresh ideas, and you don’t have to own property downtown. We want everybody in the community involved.”

To contact Copp to discuss subcommittee membership, call 791-3819.

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