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Mini-grants available for downtown business owners
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For decades, a bustling downtown was the social, cultural and financial lifeblood of communities across America.With today's interstates spidering through land that used to be thought of as "out there," Main Street's shops and diners, once filled with familiar faces, have been competing with big box stores and parking decks in sprawling bedroom communities.Here in Tennessee, we're not ready to let downtown become a memory.Smithville is among the communities seeking to revive its downtown districts. In December, 2010, the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development announced that Smithville was among 12 communities selected to participate in Tennessee Downtowns, a competitive community improvement program for cities and counties seeking to revitalize traditional commercial districts.Communities with central business districts at least 50 years old are eligible to apply for a downtown revitalization package, which includes a site visit, attendance at a two-day downtown revitalization workshop, ongoing technical assistance and an innovation project grant.Mini-grants are available to local downtown business owners who want to join in the effort.The new Tennessee Downtowns Design Committee will be taking applications for downtown Smithville building owners who will invest a minimum of $1,000 in exterior improvements to their buildings.If your application is approved by the committee, you will be eligible to receive $500.The deadline for filing your application is June 30.Your project must be completed within 60 days of the date of approval.After a design committee inspection and Chamber receiving receipts, a $500 reimbursement should be expected within 30 to 60 days.For more information, contact the Smithville-DeKalb County Chamber of Commerce at 597-4163.Tennessee joins a growing national movement to improve the business climate in America's traditional downtowns.Main Street works with these communities to provide technical assistance, training and guidance to improve the economic, social, cultural and environmental well-being of traditional commercial districts.The “Main Street Approach to Revitalization” guides communities to develop strong, broad-based local organizations and to create a road map for implementation and management of the revitalization process.In the middle 1980s Tennessee Main Street Program joined the National Main Street Center as a coordinating partner. Since then our program has engaged with towns and cities across Tennessee, spreading the national methodology and language of "Main Street," developed more than 30 years ago and successful in more than 2,500 communities across America.The National Main Street Center's "Main Street Approach to Downtown Revitalization" comprehensive downtown revitalization advocates a return to community self-reliance, local empowerment and the rebuilding of traditional business districts based on unique assets such as distinctive architecture, a pedestrian-friendly environment and local ownership.In other words, we believe in community-driven, common sense solutions to make our downtowns safe, appealing and vibrant places where folks want to shop, live and make memories.Downtowns play an important role in a community's economic development strategy.These commercial cores usually account for as much as 30 percent of a community's jobs and 40 percent of its tax base.

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