The Fort Smith Board of Directors on Tuesday (July 16) approved a resolution endorsing the city’s inclusion in the Main Street Arkansas Program. It’s one of the last parts of the process required, according to 64.6 Downtown Executive Director Talicia Richardson, who is leading the effort to get downtown Fort Smith in the program.
Under the Department of Arkansas Heritage, Main Street Arkansas provides support for the businesses and organizations within the Main Street communities such as advising on façade renovations or interior remodels, grants, and small business consulting.
Fort Smith is in the program’s Arkansas Downtown Network, and Richardson has worked for two years to make the most of the membership and to step up to be a Main Street member.
“Fort Smith was one of the initial cities who signed up to be an ADN. Upon finding this information, 64.6 Downtown engaged the City in discussion to reactivate membership while informing the 64.6 Downtown Board and Central Business Improvement District of the role of Main Street Arkansas,” Richardson noted in a letter to the city. “In addition, meetings were held with the Downtown Business Association and business owners to present the benefits of being a Main Street Affiliate. With these efforts, business owners have participated in visits from Small Business Services, Interior and Exterior Design. The Main Street Arkansas staff has conducted presentations to business owners on general Main Street services and Make Your Store a Money Magnet: Attract Festival and Tourism Dollars to your Business.”
Being a member will cost the city just $375 a year. City Director Robyn Dawson said the money is a small price to pay because being a Main Street member “will attract a lot of dollars to our area.” She also said downtown Fort Smith will be a direct beneficiary of being in the program, but “when people come in, they spend money everywhere.”
Richardson told Talk Business & Politics the board-endorsed resolution will be sent to Main Street officials on Wednesday and she is hopeful a decision will be made by October. However, it could be as late as December, she said.
There are 20 Main Street Communities and 17 Downtown Community Networks in Arkansas. In 2018, those communities had a net gain of 62 businesses in their historic downtown commercial districts and 37 business expansions or relocations into downtown. There was a net gain of 306 jobs, according to a recent report from the Department of Heritage.
The report also noted that investment in downtowns included 181 façade renovations, building rehabilitations and new construction projects with a total investment of $136.49 million. There were 51 public improvement projects with a total investment of $1.98 million.
Main Street Arkansas members are: Argenta Arts District in North Little Rock; Batesville; Blytheville; Conway; Dumas; El Dorado; Eureka Springs; Helena; Jonesboro; Downtown Little Rock Partnership and South Main Street (SoMa) in Little Rock; Osceola; Ozark; Paragould; Pine Bluff; Russellville; Searcy; Siloam Springs; Texarkana; and West Memphis.