TOPEKA – The Kansas Department of Commerce announced Monday a plan that will transition the Kansas Main Street program to local control. The Department announced on Sept. 20 that it was ending the Main Street program at the state level because of expected smaller state and federal budgets moving forward.
“The decision to end a program like Kansas Main Street program was not an easy one,” said Kansas Commerce Secretary Pat George. “However, in light of our future budget constraints, the Commerce Department must focus on programs that impact the most communities and businesses as we work to expand economic development and grow private-sector jobs statewide.”
After the Sept. 20 announcement, the Department began working with Main Street communities to transition the program out of state control. A key part of the program has been the $3.7 million in Incentive Without Walls (IWW) funding that has been used by 35 communities since 1996. IWW funding is loaned to communities to help with various downtown business needs.
Current IWW funding in use by communities can continue to be utilized by those communities as long as it is used for economic development and downtown revitalization efforts. Those communities will continue to submit annual reports on IWW funding to the Department.
“Communities can continue to use IWW funding, administered locally, as long as they continue to stick to current policies and oversight,” George said. “I am very encouraged with the communities’ commitment and attitude in wanting to continue the Main Street program as a non-state affiliated program moving forward.”
“The 27-year old Kansas Main Street program has helped pump more than $556,857 in public/private reinvestment in more than 50 communities throughout the state,” said Dr. Beverly Schmitz Glass, executive director, Garden City Downtown Vision Main Street program. “Those dollars helped open or expand 3,678 new businesses which in turn created 8,518 new jobs for Kansans. Through the spirit of cooperation between the Kansas Main Street programs and the Commerce Department, we believe we will be able to sustain the key program elements that are vital to our Main Street communities for the ongoing revitalization of downtowns across Kansas.”
In addition, the Department will help partially fund the 2012 Kansas Downtown Symposium, which is now scheduled for Oct. 17-18 in Emporia. Discussions continue about ways the local Main Street organizations can maintain their partnership with the National Main Street program, which is part of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.