Havre looks to join Montana Main Street


Last updated 7/9/2019 at 11:51am

Havre Daily News/Ryan Berry

Tash Wisemiller, coordinator for the Montana Main Street Program, speaks to a group for local officials, business owners and residents during a meeting Monday at Havre City Hall.

Havre Area Chamber of Commerce, Bear Paw Development Corp. and the city of Havre hosted a meeting Monday afternoon, at City Hall to start the development of Havre as a Montana Main Street Affiliate Community.

"I really think that the timing might be perfect for it, for what is going on downtown in Havre and a great thing tying us all together," Havre Mayor Tim Solomon said.

The Montana Main Street program is planned to help communities strengthen and preserve their historic downtown commercial districts.

Tash Wisemiller, Community and Economic Vitality Program manager of Montana Department of Commerce's Community Development Division, said the mission of Montana Main Street is to be a program "dedicated to bettering the economic, historic and cultural vitality of Montana downtowns through a comprehensive approach of community and economic development, downtown revitalization, tourism development and historic preservation."

The Montana Main Street program was created in 2005 and 27 other communities across the state are part of the program, a collaboration between the Community Development Division and the Office of Tourism at the Department of Commerce.

"These things don't happen just on their own. There is a lot of blood, sweat and tears that go into these things and having a larger vision in place that strategizes development, finds the funds and finds the fit to get these local business to 'yes' is crucial," Wisemiller said.

Wisemiller added key points that help make this program work:

• Organization. Establish a mobilized foundation of consensus, cooperation and coordination.

• Promotion. Create a positive image that showcases community uniqueness and positions downtown for success.

• Design. Enhance physical elements of downtown while capitalizing on local assets that set the district apart.

• Economic Vitality. Make the most of a unique sense of place and existing community developments.

"Main Street ... offers not only technical assistance for revitalization, but grants. So we are helping you see your visions, time together and implement grant dollars," Wisemiller said.

He added that a plan isn't just a city document that is done just for the sake of doing it, it should include all the visons of the community.

People pay attention whether they are a resident or not, and the plan for Montana Main Street should include the community's good ideas and even better ideas, he added. This can mean using resources wisely.

"Planning is a waste of time if you are not implementing it, you are just going through the motions of the plan and plan, then what is the point?" Wisemiller asked. "You should be doing it, so that way you can implement and get things done."

Wisemiller added that the Main Street Montana program is seen as a path to any community inspiration expressed, but must be met with dedicated action to make things happen within the community. He went on to say it is more vision-based than project-based.

When referring to grants, Wisemiller said, any grant usually has a matched dollar component, so that can come from fundraising, leveraging the money or city budgets.

A common theme is that a master plan is done by a professional planner.

"We are here to move it forward. The No. 1 thing would be a master plan with everyone putting their input in," Solomon said.

The next step moving forward, Havre Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jody Olson said, is creating a steering committee of business and property owners and residents in the community who want to get involved and begin the application process.

People can contact Olson at the Chamber at 265-4383.

Havre Daily News/Ryan Berry

Mayor Tim Solomon laughs as Tash Wisemiller, coordinator of the Montana Main Street Program, speaks to a group of local officials and business owners during a meeting Monday at Havre City Hall.


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