Officials meet today at Civic Center with OCRA, BSU as IMPACT Main Street comes to life
The Office of Community and Rural Affairs was awarded a $100,000 grant from USDA Rural Development to create the IMPACT Main Street program last November.
Today, one of the nine Indiana cities and towns selected — our very own Sullivan — will begin working with Ball State University’s Indiana Communities Institute to design and implement business investment strategies for their downtowns.
The program’s goal is to strengthen and protect existing businesses, contribute to expansions and create job opportunities.
“Basically, they are going to meet with 10 to 15 folks that have an interest in downtown or have invested in the downtown and with a few community leaders,” Sullivan mayor Clint Lamb said. “It will be a private session … we’ll meet at the Civic Center at 9 a.m.
“They will give us a presentation. Then they’ll actually spend the morning and afternoon in downtown (Sullivan). They will pick a place to eat lunch in the downtown area. Then, to my understanding, after they eat lunch, they will spend time with me and we’ll go over everything.”
The mayor said at a future date to be determined, the group will return to Sullivan for a town hall forum to discuss their findings and recommendations and gain feedback from the entire community.
Besides Sullivan, the nine Main Street organizations selected for this pilot include: Seymour, Fairmount, Tell City, Tipton, Rockville, Dillsboro, Elwood and LaPorte.
According to OCRA, the Indiana Communities Institute will provide to each of the nine Main Street organizations:
• compile and analyze community data on market strengths and weaknesses to help identify new businesses;
• provide technical assistance on emerging trends and best practices around implementation of local business attraction and support activities; and
• aid in the design, marketing and launch of a business investment strategy to foster new business activity.
Once the pilot is complete, OCRA intends to extend the program to other Main Street organizations.
The mayor said the city will also give a presentation during the morning meeting to review a similar Ball State study performed back in 1980 — see a special tab section of the Sullivan Daily Times on Oct. 16, 1980 — when Bill Donnelly was mayor.
Lamb pointed out a few of the recommendations from nearly 40 years ago have just recently been, or are being, implemented, including:
• a comprehensive urban design plan and strategy for the downtown area;
• plan, design and implement streetscape improvement program that unifies elements of pedestrian service and safety.
Another long ago recommendation was to “institute a study and seek funds for a program to strengthen the link between downtown and Sullivan County Park and Lake and will provide means of travel for both adults and children.”
To that end, Lamb discussed in January with the city’s redevelopment commission of a recent meeting seeking grant funds from the Indiana Department of Transportation for a pedestrian safe route between the downtown and the SCPL.
“We’re all excited about how we’re implementing some of these recommendations and for us to be selected for them to come back is an exciting time for the city,” Lamb noted.