The Ely Times

The White Pine County Commission and Ely City Council held a joint meeting last Wednesday. The focus was mainly on a presentation of the Main Street America Program.

Matt Moore, deputy director from the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, gave the presentation to a large crowd of local residents, business owners and elected officials. Mainly residents, new and native to the area voiced their opinions in favor of the program.

Moore explained how the program began in 1980 and how it has helped more than 2,000 communities who joined the program and revitalized their cities, and towns.

“What is Main Street? It’s really about working together as a community to achieve the vision for your  downtown,” Moore said. “Focus over historic commercial historic districts, the people that those places serve,  and provide a foundation for prosperity.  I think Ely needs that what do you think?”

The first Main Street community in Nevada was Gardnerville, before the Main Street America program came to Nevada. It was reported that Gardnerville has been a main street community for 5-6 years now.

Nevada’s Main street program was introduced in 2017 by Heidi Swank as a two-year program, and is being funded for two years. Moore said he was confident that once they show some success it will continue to be funded.

Moore explains the program provides economic health for the community. “It does actually increase in residential demand, people want to live in the community or downtown,” Moore said. “The effort that communities put in to buildings and infrastructure stimulates the local economy.”

It’s explained that infrastructure is a major public investment but it pays back in healthy businesses downtown, and business attraction, and that in turn generates tax revenue to the city and county governments.

What are the grounds rules for the revitalization? It is based on historic preservation, those unique places in Ely that make Ely, Ely.

Moore notes that for every $1 of public fund including the main street program, it has generated on average $32 in private reinvestment and revenue generation.

“So a lot of communities say we can’t afford main street. but with the 1 to 32 reinvestment ratio, can you afford not to do main street?” Moore said.

An example of a community where the program was implemented was Rawlins, Wyoming. A city of 9,000, a little bit bigger than Ely, but in the first six years of the program they decreased the downtown vacancy rate to 10 percent from more than 40 percent, created more than 200 jobs and opened 28 new businesses.

The three different levels of membership were discussed.

“Exploring is the first level, where you don’t get a whole lot of access, some phone consultation, and a structure that doesn’t cost anything.” Moore said. “A option where you can see if it’s going to work for your community.  The second is the affiliate, where you get a little more, but where you’re also as a community saying that in two years you’re going to make a conscience effort to where you can be accredited.

“And, to be accredited that’s where you talk about public financing, 10 performance steps. When you become accredited it  you are able to use the national main street logo.”

The discussion went into dollar amounts, and the need to hire a main street director in Ely to the program can be effective and one person is spear heading the program locally.

Caroline McIntosh, board member of the Tour and Rec Board, asked Moore  where he would you suggest Ely start if there’s an appetite to be a main street program.

“I think with what NDOT is about to start here, I would really like to see the affiliate level because I think a lot of the hard lifting is going to be done for you,” he said. “Based on this turnout, and previous discussions I think the community is ready for it, getting some pledge of support, getting people here behind it, getting a executive director hired.”

Richard Howe spoke of concerns of the cost. He said, “I see the amount of money $25,000, then it’s starting to upward to $100,000 I’m just trying to understand what is needed.”

Several locals in the crowd commented. Nathan Robertson, a resident, and business owner, said, “I’ve sat through this presentation a couple of times, my favorite part is that we aren’t reinventing the wheel, I know there’s a lot of obstacles, but these are all issues the program has dealt with before.

“Having gone away to school, moved back, bought businesses, it’s time to do this. You can go to other communities and see what’s happening. This is going to be good for the people here, not just the tourists.”

Donna Bath said, “I’m speaking a private citizen, I’m 100 in favor with joining in on GOED with this, I worked for the county for many many years, and we have done studies, and studies, and I think now is the time that our community needs to ban together to do action rather than studies.

“We have the will, and we are fighters and we are workers and we can get it done but we need that expertise to help us and it’s being offered.”

CIty Councilman Sam Hanson asked the question to the crowd if anyone had any serious reservations of the city putting in some kind of funds from public coffers. He said, “We don’t have a figure to  toss around yet, but to some people one dollar might be to much, and I just wondered if that was the idea, if there is going to be a huge public backlash if we committed to a certain amount.”

Burton Hilton said, “This is my first experience coming to these and I want to applaud everyone who has been working on this. I think it’s silly that were worrying about $25,000 here and there, the county commission is spending between $20 and $30 million on this super secret justice center project that is actually pulling 18-20 jobs out of our downtown area.

“Where talking about $25,000 being our stumbling block? Our government entities have money, it’s just the priorities they have, and whether this is a priority or not, I can’t speak for them, it’s their choice, but I just get really tired of us as a community saying well that’s going to cost us a $100 here or $50 here.  Let’s look at the big picture on how can we do this. We have so many opportunities, if you look at our downtown with some vision, we have a huge opportunity with NDOT making this investment here, but let’s ask ourselves, how can we do this? Not why we can’t? We can do these things, it’s whether we choose to do them or not.”

Many clapped after his comment.

Moore ended with, “A community can either be shaped by choice or chance, choice is making a conscience to do what is right. You can accept the community you get or create the community you want.”