Ames works toward Main Street Iowa program

Kyle Peterson

Editor’s Note: This story was initially published on Feb. 23, 2009.

For the next month and a half, staff at the Ames Main Street Cultural District will be hard at work nominating Ames to become an official Main Street Community of Iowa.

“We’ll end up with about a four inch binder,” said Jayne McGuire, director of the Main Street Cultural District.

“It’s a lot of self discovery, a snapshot of where we are today.”

The program, administered through the Iowa Department of Economic Development, will accept three more traditional downtowns this year. Ames’ application is due April 1, with a formal proposal to follow in May.

The selection process can be very competitive.

“I believe there were 60 communities that went to the application workshop,” McGuire said.

The applicants are judged on a variety of things, according to McGuire, including shape and assessed value of downtown buildings, number of downtown employees, and both short range and long range goals.

However, McGuire said that one of the things the program would not change is the grassroots nature of Ames’ downtown.

“They’re not going to come in and tell us what we need to do,” McGuire said.

“The downtown group needs to figure out what’s best for Ames and then the Main Street people will help us get to that point.”

What are the advantages of being accepted to the Main Street Iowa program?

“It’s a lot of resources,” McGuire said.

Resources offered include:

  • More than $100,000 worth of consulting and technical assistance
  • Training and workshops for staff and volunteers
  • Access to loan pools and funding resources
  • Membership in a community of experienced main street directors from across Iowa who have dealt with many of the issues Ames faces