Bangor, Maine – photo by Ramona du Houx

By Ramona du Houx – April 22nd, 2013 ·

Maine’s downtowns and Main Streets would be strengthened and grow under a measure sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Seth Goodall.

“Downtowns are the backbone of every community and are needed for a healthy local economy,” said Senator Goodall of Richmond. “This bill is beneficial to the bricks and mortar of our Main Streets. Additionally, it attracts businesses, creates jobs, and has proven results.”

A dozen people came out and testified in support of Goodall’s bill, LD 1172, An Act to Support the Maine Downtown Center,” a measure allocating $100,000 to the Maine Downtown Center.

Established in 1999, the Maine Downtown Center began with four communities as a way to encourage downtown revitalization. It now includes 30 communities and hosts popular programs like the Main Street Maine program, the Maine Downtown Network, Green Downtowns, and Healthy Maine Streets.

During testimony in favor of the bill to the Joint Select Committee on Maine’s Workforce and Economic Future, State Representative Jennifer DeChant of Bath said, “Bath has greatly benefitted from the Maine Downtown Center. Since becoming a member of its Main Street Community program in 2001, my city has added 43 new businesses, 225 new full-time jobs, and 45 new part-time jobs. This is the kind of economic development opportunity communities across our state can all benefit from.”

Last year, Bath was one of only five Main Streets in the nation bestowed with the honor of the2012 Great American Main Street award. Bath was the first community in the state to receive this award and only the fifth in New England.

“I have always been a champion of the Maine Downtown Center because all I have to do is look to Bath, one of my favorite downtowns, to see what happens when a community has the support of volunteers, resources, and professionals dedicated to making downtown a vibrant place that encourages economic growth and community,” added Senator Goodall, who is the Senate Chair of the committee.

Analysis by the Maine Downtown Center shows that for every $1 spent on downtowns, there is $25.43 in reinvestment. Additionally, according to reports by Main Street Maine communities from 2002—2012, the total amount of reinvestment topped $169.7 million in public and private dollars; a net gain of 269 new businesses; a net gain of 1,291 jobs; and, more than 600 buildings rehabilitated or improved.

“We want to position our downtown communities in a way that will make them the engines of economic growth for both the public and the private sector,” said Goodall. “We can’t ignore how far these dollars are leveraged by the private sector.”

The committee will hold a work session on the bill in the coming weeks.

Later this week, the members of the Joint Select Committee on Maine’s Workforce and Economic Future will be holding its third and final off-site tour and public hearing on Friday, April 26th in Biddeford. A portion of the committee’s day will be focused on mill redevelopment and small business and downtown success.