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Main Street gives community pride

Published July 06. 2019 06:26AM

Every town has a business district and whether the street is called “Main Street” or known by another name doesn’t really matter. It’s the place where business takes place. At least in some cases it used to.

In days gone by the business districts of our small towns here in Carbon County and many other places across America were beehives of activity. You could find anything you wanted or needed in locally owned shops just by walking down the main street. From shoes to clothes to hardware and candy.

In the early 1970s that all seemed to fade with the advent of shopping malls. These were the new places to be with everything under one roof. They drew businesses and shoppers away from the downtowns.

Well I’m here to tell you that Main Street is staging a comeback. We have seen it in Jim Thorpe and Palmerton. Lehighton and Lansford both have energetic volunteer groups in the Lehighton Downtown Initiative and Lansford Alive.

Lehighton has recently finalized a second visit by a Main Street consultant in cooperation with the Greater Lehigh Valley Realtors. It was a very robust and successful three-day series focusing on the four points of the Main Street program which are organization, promotion, design and economic vitality.

Why is the downtown important? Downtowns support local independent businesses that in turn support local families.

Your downtown is a symbol of community economic health and a partnership between the private sector and the public sector.

Downtowns instill community pride and protect community history. They are also a destination for Heritage Travelers who spend 2.5 times as much money as other visitors, visit twice as many places and stay longer.

The downtowns can serve as an incubator for new small businesses which are the successes of tomorrow. This stimulates the local economy and helps reduce sprawl.

Cumulative estimates based on statistics gathered by the National Main Street organization from 1980 to Dec. 31, 2017, for all designated Main Street America communities nationwide show that reinvestment in physical improvements were $74.73 billion. There were 138,303 new businesses created and 614,716 new jobs created with 276,790 buildings rehabilitated.

These numbers prove that by utilizing the Main Street approach we don’t have to reinvent the wheel. We can develop a plan that will help revitalize our downtowns. One point of that plan should be attracting developers that are willing to purchase buildings and do the rehab work. Then put businesses in that will be successful and flourish.

This is a big task for us to undertake, but undertake it we must. The Main Street program is a map to help us take back our downtowns and make them vibrant once again.

This is a call to action for anyone who has an interest and desire to once again shop our downtowns to get involved. Contact the CCEDC if you want more information or to get involved. The success of our downtowns depends on all of us.

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