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Main Street Iowa is a go

Fort Dodge is welcomed back to Iowa Economic Development program

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen Fort Dodge earned its Main Street Iowa designation Wednesday.

Fort Dodge has been designated as a Main Street Iowa community, Debi Durham, director of the Iowa Economic Development Authority, announced Wednesday.

Main Street Iowa is a program led by the Iowa Economic Development Authority. Its goal is to improve the downtown area of the cities that are part of the program.

The announcement was made during the opening session of the Iowa Downtown Conference in downtown Sioux City.

The designation will help Fort Dodge revitalize its downtown, according to Steve Pederson, president of the local Self-Supported Municipal Improvement District.

“I personally am very excited about this collaboration with Main Street because it will allow us to really focus on retail in the downtown and the filling of our existing buildings and renewal of existing businesses on main street,” Pederson said. “This program has a very good track record of helping communities find what they are going to rally around for the next 15 to 20 years to put a fresh face on the downtown.”

SSMID, along with the Greater Fort Dodge Growth Alliance and the city of Fort Dodge, worked on the application process together, according to Jill Nelson, community development director of the Greater Fort Dodge Growth Alliance.

SSMID will be responsible for the Main Street Iowa program in Fort Dodge.

“We have a SSMID board and they will become the Main Street board,” Nelson said. “In addition to overseeing SSMID funds, they will also oversee the Main Street budget, the program and its director.”

A Main Street director will be appointed by the end of the year to focus solely on the needs of downtown, Nelson said. The director’s office will be located at the Greater Fort Dodge Growth Alliance, Nelson said.

Funding from the city, SSMID and private donations will keep the program running.

Nelson said Main Street Iowa will provide architectural services, technical assistance, and promotional and marketing guidance.

During the first three years of the program, Fort Dodge is to receive about 40 days of onsite training and technical assistance from the Main Street Iowa team, Main Street America staff, and private consultants, according to Durham.

An additional 30 days of training for volunteers and local staff will be offered, putting the state’s investment at $120,000, Durham said.

Main Street communities each receive continuing training and technical assistance valued at $10,000 annually, Durham reported.

According to her, by working together with the state Main Street Iowa communities benefit with more than three million hours of volunteer time invested into improving their city centers. An increased job and business base, and more than $1.7 billion in private investment to purchase, construct and rehabilitate downtown property are other benefits, Durham said.

Pederson said he is looking forward to working with the Main Street Iowa team.

“Their expertise that they bring to the table will create a wonderful synergy for new merchants and the bright new professionals that we have coming into our community to join hand in hand to take on some fun projects and host some great events,” Pederson said. “There’s going to be lots of room for people to share their commitment to the Fort Dodge community and to partner with our local merchants to do some things.”

Pederson said it’s a great time to invest in Fort Dodge’s downtown.

“The timing is right,” he said. “The culmination of my 10 years on the SSMID board, this is what we have been building to. This is what the downtown plan has brought us to.”

A new nonprofit organization will be formed to support the program, according to Nelson.

The group will be co-located with the Greater Fort Dodge Growth Alliance, Fort Dodge Community Foundation and United Way, and the Fort Dodge Convention and Visitors Bureau.

A design, promotion, economic vitality and organization committee will serve under the Main Street director, who will work under SSMID, according to Pederson. Between six and 10 people will serve on each committee, he said.

Nelson said Fort Dodge plans to have a long-term commitment to the Main Street program.

“There are communities who have been Main Street communities for 20-plus years,” Nelson said. “So this is something that will be around for a while. As long as the funding is there and as long as we still see a need and it is supported by our community we will have it.”

Clarence was the other city designated as a Main Street Iowa community. A total of 54 communities in Iowa now hold the designation. The program has been in place for more than 30 years.

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