Emporia Main Street is a results oriented organization. The culture of measurable activities that push for community growth has been fostered by you, our membership, since the inception of the program in 1991. Each year, we look back briefly to assess what was accomplished during the calendar year, and we utilize your feedback to help determine how to improve in future years. So, let’s cover some of what the volunteers of Emporia Main Street accomplished in 2014. You ask us to constantly push the envelope, so let’s just look at the new things accomplished in 2014, and we’ll cover everything else in a January newsletter.
E-Community – Emporia Main Street worked with Network Kansas to establish the Lyon County E-Community. This zero interest loan fund can be used anywhere in Lyon County, and $96,000 were loaned out of the account in 2014 for one business start up and two business expansions. The majority of the loan funds were issued outside of downtown, but within the city limits of Emporia.
Preservation Conference – Emporia served as the host city for the Kansas Preservation Alliance for the first time. We helped coordinate speakers, venues and other conference activities. Members of the KPA were impressed with what Emporia has to offer, and we were assured the conference will be back in Emporia soon.
Veteran’s Banners – After Ron Slaymaker and Dr. Kevin Coulson brought the concept of lamp post banners that honored active duty personnel in military base communities, Emporia Main Street partnered with the Freedom Fest Committee to “tweak” the concept to highlight veterans and reach out to the community for sponsors. We hoped for forty banner sponsors, and we ended up with 104. The City of Emporia helped us procure more banner brackets, the Public Works Department did an amazing job placing banners and improving infrastructure and the local media helped get the word out. Social Media buzz led to regional news stories and national attention. Over 30,000 people were reached on social media platforms about the project, people visited downtown Emporia from other states to view the banners and we have an extensive waiting list for next years expansion of the project.
Community Initiated Development Plan Adoption – The CID process started in 2006, but the downtown master plan component was adopted by the City of Emporia in 2014. The recommendations within the plan are designed to increase development and improve the community core. Less than a year old, the CID plan already has it’s first “win” with a $4.5 million development project, and others on the way.
New Businesses and Developments – Although we will focus on new businesses with our quarterly reporting in January, we saw some major movement on establishing new market trending this year. Radius Brewing Company opened, Dynamic Discs added a 20,000 square foot distribution facility, SEARS occupied a large vacant historic building, new gift shops like the Little Red Rooster opened, clothing options like Studio 50-4 and Rockin’ Accessories expanded and more Start Your Own Business graduates, like the owners of the Disciple Shoppe, moved into store fronts. Store fronts were remodeled, necessary aesthetic repair work was completed and a major new development (the Chelsea Lofts) was announced. We will focus more on economic impacts in a January e-news.
New studies resulted in new community tools – Research conducted by Emporia Main Street Intern Hillary Becker helped create a basis for the Chronically Vacant Property Ordinance passed by the City of Emporia. An economics student from Emporia State University helped create a gravity based market model that better defines our market opportunities. We started a new research project with Emporia State University in 2014 that could give our area a competitive advantage by enhancing crowd funding efforts.
Upper Story Enhancements – A LOT of upper story window coverings were removed this year, old lamp posts were painted, alleys were cleaned up, dilapidated housing was removed (and is still being removed) and entire facades were revitalized. For those people that have been gone for a while, we hear a lot of “wow” comments. We have a long way to go aesthetically, but we’ve come a long way.