“Cartersville has been a National Main Street Community since 1987,” Cartersville DDA/Main Street Manager Tara Currier said. “Up until 2013, the Main Street director had to submit an annual report to the Office of Community Development at Georgia Department of Community Affairs, which oversees the Georgia Main Street Program. Though I only had to do one of these, having started in 2012, it was very labor intensive. Essentially a large notebook had to be put together with backup of completion of the 10 program standards. This included everything from newspaper articles about events and activities held downtown; detailed copy of the Main Street Work Plan noting progress in each area as well as budget; copies of board minutes and certificates of completed training; information about businesses locating to downtown and/or closing downtown; board minutes and training; and much more.
“In 2013, the director of Office of Downtown Development, a former Main Street director himself, streamlined the annual reporting process greatly. Each month, I am required to submit a report to the Office of Downtown Development on all activities, meetings, revenues and expenditures, programs and events from the month prior. From how much money was invested downtown, to how many events were held, number of volunteer hours and minutes from all of my committee and board meetings, this process not only is easier on the Office of Downtown Development to keep track, but has been great for Cartersville as we can see our progress each month. It does take some time to complete, and obviously Georgia Main Street Program is ensuring we are meeting all of the standards of the National Main Street Program each month. I received notification in January from the Georgia Main Street Program that we were being recommended for national accreditation. It is an honor to know that Cartersville continues to meet the standards and is now going on 27 years.”
As noted by Currier, Main Street programs needed to meet several performance standards to be designated as an accredited National Main Street Program.
According to a press release from the Cartersville DDA/Main Street Program, “Evaluation criteria determines the communities that are building comprehensive and sustainable revitalization efforts and include standards such as fostering strong public-private partnerships, securing an operating budget, tracking programmatic progress and actively preserving historic buildings.
“In the past year, downtown Cartersville has welcomed 14 new businesses, which include a restaurant, retail shops, an event facility, and variety of needed services. These businesses have brought with them approximately 150 jobs. Working closely with the Main Street Design Committee, property owners were contacted over the past year to get support for a Business Improvement District (B.I.D.) budget amendment. The required percentage of property owners was obtained and City Council approved the budget amendment in June 2014. The amended budget will allow B.I.D. funds to be spent on more downtown improvements and promotion including, though not limited to, public access WiFi, a covered pavilion in Friendship Plaza, and more advertising for downtown businesses. Of course, the most popular and oft-used aspect of the B.I.D. funds are the grants awarded through the DDA. During the 2013-2014 fiscal year, just over $7,500 was awarded to downtown business and property owners who enhanced downtown by investing in signage, new awnings, paint, and other exterior improvements.”
To develop and maintain a “thriving downtown,” Currier has supported several new events to appeal to a wide cross section of the community.
“We are extremely fortunate in Cartersville to have so much interest and support in downtown,” Currier said. “The board has worked very hard since I became manager to help bring new events, initiatives and better relationship-building tactics to downtown. Our committees are working hard on each of the areas outlined in our Annual Work Plan, which is a huge ‘plus’ in the eyes of those reviewing our monthly reports. I, along with board members, also attend other meetings of the city and county to help maintain working relationships with elected officials and others who have a vested interest in a thriving downtown.
“I’ve actually gotten feedback from the director of Office of Downtown Development on how pleased he is with all that Cartersville is doing. From the completion of the Downtown Master Plan, to expanded use of the Business Improvement District (B.I.D.) funds, to our Cartersville Bluegrass & Folk Festival, improved First Friday events and monthly mixers, we are doing a lot to try and engage not only downtown business and property owners, but the community at large. This is what the Main Street Program is all about — keeping our downtown alive and thriving, and making it a continued place for people to come and spend time with their friends, family and visitors.”