Main Street Alabama kick-off event held at Hotel Magnolia

Posted on Jun 27, 2018

“This is a very big deal for Foley,” City Administrator Mike Thompson said. “I’m very excited about becoming a Main Street city. Both our community members and our city put a lot of time and effort into our downtown, but I think what we’ve missed so far is that organization that helps us crystalize our vision, and somebody waking up every day focused on that vision and seeing us move forward.”

The Main Street Alabama program is designed to help cities’ downtown areas. A committee will be formed under the leadership of the Main Street director, and together they will work to make Foley’s downtown come back to life.

“Downtown is a very important element, it’s the heart and soul of the community,” said Foley Mayor John Koniar. “As it gets older, as do we, it begins to have heart problems, and we’ve had our problems in downtown Foley. Hopefully, Main Street will be the medicine that will bring it back to a rhythm and back to a vibrant downtown.”

During the kick-off, Main Street Statewide Director Mary Helmer spoke about the program and what the future for Foley holds.

“Over the next few months, we’ll be learning about Foley, to understand who you are and who you want to be,” said Helmer. “You want to be Foley, you want to be authentic. We’re excited to discover more about what that is for you guys. Main Street is a way of life. It’s a way to manage the changes in your downtown over time.”

Main Street is designed to help existing businesses grow, bringing in new businesses and filling empty spaces, planning special events and festivals that are unique to the communities in which they take place, and decorating downtown buildings to catch the eyes of passersby.

“Our job is to help existing businesses first to be more successful, and that will draw additional people to the area,” said Helmer. “We’re going to help you understand what your market is, and who you are authentically as Foley.”

To begin the Main Street process, first the committee will be created, along with hiring the new director. The South Baldwin Chamber of Commerce has offered to support the Main Street program by housing the new director in their office. Then, Main Street teams will come in to access what they call the 4-point approach, which is their method to bring downtowns to life.

“The next big visit will be Sept. 11 – 13,” said Helmer. “We’ll be here for our resource team, we’ll be bringing in experts from across the United States in each of the 4-points: organization, promotion, economic vitality, and design. We want to invite the community to be involved in the process. There’ll be a visioning process on the front of it, we’ll be doing tons of interviews, information gathering, and, taking that expertise from across the US, we’ll determine what our initial recommendations for you will be. You won’t have to wait six weeks on that: we’ll be here on the 11th, and on the 13th we’ll have another public presentation telling you this is what we heard, this is the direction that we think you should go.”

The visioning process will take place throughout the first year, while the second year will be the market analysis, during which the Main Street teams will discover who Foley is economically. From there, they will determine the city’s market, and what sort of businesses and events would be best seen coming to town. For the third year, the teams will come in to do a branding.

“We really can’t brand your district until you understand what your resources are, what your authentic places and people and events are,” said Helmer. “But this isn’t just a three-year program. Like I said, it’s a way of life.”

Over time, Main Street could potentially bring many new businesses, festivals, and ideas to the area. Part of the program focuses on brainstorming unique events and artwork for downtown areas. The program “is focused on bringing jobs, dollars, and people back to Alabama’s historic communities,” states the program’s website.

Also on the website is a Foley tab, and starting July, Foley’s webpage will display stats about the city, from the number of new jobs to buildings sold.

For more information on Main Street or to keep up with Foley’s data, check their website at www.MainStreetAlabama.org.

For more information on the upcoming Sept. Main Street meeting and details on time and location, keep checking with the City of Foley’s website: CityOfFoley.org.

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