June 13, 2007 Edition

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50 hear about Main
Street Ark. program

Greg Phillips (left), Main Street Arkansas assistant director, answers questions about the program that works to revitalize downtowns. Milton Smith of First National Bank (right) introduced Phillips and organized the meeting, along with Lorra Whitmire of First National Bank.
John Bland

Fifty people were present Tuesday afternoon at the Gateway Theatre on West Main Street to hear a presentation by Greg Phillips, assistant director, on the Main Street Arkansas program. The program works with communities to revitalize downtowns.

Phillips said he was "wowed" by the good turnout in the middle of a weekday afternoon. Caroline Myers, a new member of the Main Street Arkansas staff, also attended the meeting.

The informational meeting was organized by Milton Smith and Lorra Whitmire of First National Bank. Business owners, bankers, Chamber of Commerce leaders and other interested citizens attended and expressed interest in pursuing the program.

It was decided the next step would be to ask Gina Jarrett, executive director of Main Street Paragould, to meet with interested local citizens.

Phillips gave a PowerPoint presentation explaining the history, purpose and requirements for participation in the program. The program began nationally in the late 1970's when city centers began decaying.

"Downtowns reflect the health of the community," Phillips said. The Main Street program helps rehabilitate buildings and improve economic development.

He explained that there are two levels of participation: the Arkansas Downtown Network Communities and the Main Street Arkansas Communities.

The Main Street Arkansas program requires a more extensive commitment, while the Arkansas Downtown Network (ADN) program is a newer program with fewer requirements for participation. The ADN program is only two years old, while Main Street Arkansas began in 1984.

The financial requirement for Main Street Arkansas towns with a population under 5,000 is an annual budget of $31,000 to $32,000 with a part-time paid director. The ideal formula for funding is: 25 percent from the city and/or county, 25 percent from business and industry, 25 percent from local lending institutions and 25 percent from others, such as property owners and citizens.

"Downtowns are the keeper of a town's history," Phillips said. "Vital downtowns create jobs, serve as an incubator for small businesses and help increase property values," he added.

The program works to retain existing businesses while encouraging new businesses. Main Street Arkansas has a staff of seven and offers design assistance with an architectural design consultant on the staff.

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