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Friday, May 6, 2016

Monett Main Street program begins downtown effort

Friday, September 24, 2010

Work on Monett's Main Street program got underway yesterday. Downtown Coordinator DJ Miller, shown at right, shared details about the four core committees in the Main Street formula with Jennifer Head, from Missouri Southern State University's program at the Southwest Area Career Center, and Shaun Bennett, with Denali Dreams. Miller said the program is an overall community effort, not just a downtown exercise. The next meeting will be at 8:30 a.m. on Oct. 7 at the Monett Chamber of Commerce meeting room. [Times Photo by Murray Bishoff]
The work of Monett's Main Street program began last night as Downtown Coordinator DJ Miller outlined how the program for which he was hired will work.

Miller said the Main Street program has a distinguished track record in other communities. The approach to addressing local needs pivots off of four emphases: design, organization, promotion and economic restructuring.

According to material shared by Miller, "The National Main Street Center's experience in helping communities bring their downtowns back to life has shown time and time again that the Four Point Approach succeeds only when combined with the following eight principles: comprehensive, incremental, self-help, public/private partnership/identifying and capitalizing on existing assets, quality, change, and action-oriented."

To make such an effort work in Monett, Miller said volunteers will be needed to undertake the various tasks. He asked those in attendance to seek out community members who would be willing to work in specific areas.

The promotion committee, for example, will develop a marketing strategy for the town, a retail strategy describing what Monett has to offer, image activities to shape a face for marketing, and special events.

Each area will require a vision, Miller said.

"Instead of anything coming to town," Miller said, "do you want to target the right kind of business that will stay? For image, do we want a destination or a bunch of stores of all kinds? What makes a destination?"

Miller expected the design committee would be the most popular because of its tasks. Design work will entail photo and building information inventory, public improvements, design assistance, historic preservation, ordinances and guidance, incentives and/or marketing, design education and awareness, window displays and visual merchandising.

Sign-up sheets were distributed to serve on specific committees. Miller asked those present to find five other people who will participate in the process.

"You make the rules," Miller said.

Those present asked how strongly the Monett City Council would back the effort. Miller said he believed the funding pledged by the council, the Monett Chamber of Commerce and the downtown merchants to create the position he holds reflected a significant commitment.

Jennifer Head, who heads academic outreach for Missouri Southern State University at the Southwest Area Career Center, said she had participated in setting up a conservation district near Missouri State University. Housing in the area was deteriorating due to over-occupancy allowed by landlords. The Springfield City Council's willingness to establish and stick to standards had been essential to the district's success. Head expected a similar effort would be needed in Monett.

Sharon Garrett, one of two downtown merchants on the Main Street committee, agreed. She said the city council was standing behind the Vision 2030 process and saw the Main Street program as a way to achieve the envisioned future shaping of the downtown district.

"The downtown merchants can't do it all," Garrett said.

Miller said the downtown effort was seen as a way to reach some of the goals outlined in the Vision 2030 plan. He hoped people who participated on the Vision 2030 process would join the Main Street effort.

Several of those present who also attended Vision 2030 meetings said they saw value in the plan the Drury University students had drafted in the Vision 2030 plan. At the same time they saw the study's proposals as a loose framework for what Monett could become, not an unchangeable plan.

Miller hoped to engage the volunteers in many facets of documentation and promotion. He hoped an activity could be organized that would be fun and eventually raise money, though the first year simply breaking even would be enough.

"Anyone who cares about the future of Monett can help," Miller said, "not just the downtown."

Businessman Shaun Bennett described the effort as being similar to building a snowman.

"It all starts with a snowball," Bennett said.

Resources in Miller's office, including detailed descriptions of all the committees, are available to anyone interested. Miller said his core times to work will be 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. He would be willing to personally speak to anyone interested in helping the committee to explain the effort.

Miller welcomed interested persons to call him at 417-635-1139.

The group decided to try to meet at least once a month. The next meeting was scheduled for 8:30 a.m. on Thursday, Oct. 7 at the chamber's public meeting room.

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