Revitalizing downtown areas is theme of spring leaders breakfast

FUTURE REGIONAL LEADERS–Pictured are the students recognized at last week’s Regional Leaders Breakfast. They are: in front: Jenny Yang, Faith Argus, Ashleigh Stegmann, Rachel Bradley, Austin Melliere, Tyler Koester and Curtis Meyer; in back: Kylie Bateman, Kadie Young, Devyn Barton, Hayley Strotman, Drake Bollman, Jacob Cushman, Seth Bass and Lake Fogerson.

Revitalizing communities was the focus of the spring Regional Leaders Breakfast held April 4 at St. Patrick’s Hall in Ruma.

The featured guest speaker at the breakfast was Sara McGibany, who serves as the executive director of Alton Main Street.

In introducing McGibany, Randolph County Economic Development Director Chris Martin noted that at last fall’s breakfast they had Zachary Mannheimer speak about enhancing downtowns and making them vibrant again. “We thought we’d continue with that theme,” Martin said.

McGibany noted that the Main Street program stated with the goal of saving old, historic buildings. “What used to be the heart of the nation fell into disrepair, so the National Trust for Historic Preservation built the program to help downtowns.”

In 1994, the Alton Main Street program was created to specifically transform the community’s “blighted” downtown.

McGibany stated that since then, they have coordinated thousands of events, attracting tourists and improving the quality of life for residents, as well as preserve local history and educate the public on historic preservation.

She pointed out that the Main Street process is a long one, but communities need to look at their long term plans. “Start with what you have. It takes some time for these events to grow.”

McGibany also pointed out that the downtown supports the community and the small business community is a big catalyst for change.

For more from the Regional Leaders Breakfast, please see this week’s print edition.