OPINION: State of Main Street addressLast year, Mitchell's core business district sold more than $24 million worth of taxable goods and services.
By: Carrie Metz-English, Guest columnist
It was four years ago today I made the 75-mile trip to Mitchell to see what the future might hold in store for me and three children. After interviewing with some of the board members of Mitchell Main Street & Beyond and the subsequent job offer to become its first executive director, I took a long hard look (with fresh eyes and visions) at the downtown area and challenged myself to be a part of the implementation of the changes this community so deserves.
Four years later, and I am now the human resource director for County Fair Food Stores, a move that has been beneficial for me in many ways, one of them being that I am now on the very board that decided to hire me four years ago.
And in that time, I haven’t forgotten the challenges. In the beginning, some were skeptical of the attention the MMSB board and its members felt the center of Mitchell deserved. Meanwhile, citizens start asking about urban revitalization, the Shop Local movement shows some honest statistical merits and everyone’s asking, “What’s going on downtown?”
What IS going on downtown? Good question (take a deep breath, the list is long.) Last year, our core business district sold more than $24 million worth of taxable goods and services. Downtown remains one of the city’s largest employers, with more than 225 full-time employees and 120 part-time employees. Our history is rich with 62 buildings listed as contributing to the National Historic Registry. Ample places to park exist with over 1,000 parking spaces. MMSB held 25 events and provided a volunteer base with over 2,330 volunteer hours last year. And the most exciting news of all? We’re nearing 100 businesses as we’ve recently welcomed the following businesses to downtown: Get Fresh, Mayhem Marketplace, Welcome Home Furnishings, Dykstra Woodworking, Adorn Boutique, Bliss Bridal and Gentry Finance.
Let’s go back to the original question. What is going on downtown? A lot. And the time to be downtown is now.
With news like this, we can ask “What business would you miss most if it were gone?” I’d miss it all: I’d miss waving at Dan as I head down to the basement of the Antique Mall; I’d miss talking with John while ordering a glass of wine at the Depot; I’d miss having to allot 10 extra minutes so I can chat with everyone at CorTrust Bank. I’d miss the entire downtown. And what can we do to protect that? Cue the implementation of inspired changes.
We recently created a Foundation Committee, with Scott Houwman chairing this group. Although we are financially stable today, the future needs care. Businesses, buildings and quality of life depend on a secure future. The committee is addressing this.
Billy Mawhiney is championing a membership drive to get even more people on board with the visions of MMSB and downtown. We’re a pretty cool board, and our members are fantastic; the more the merrier. Our challenges for change become less when our numbers grow.
Nikki Porter with Porter Distributing was welcomed to our strong slate of officers last month, joining Dave Brooks, CorTrust; Jeff Logan, Logan Theatres; Scott Houwman, Universal Physical Therapy; Michelle White, Mueller Lumber; Jim Stangeland, State Farm Insurance; Martin Cunningham, retired (lucky guy); Board Treasurer Billy Mawhiney, Get Fresh; Secretary Steve Clarke, County Fair Food Stores; Vice President Mari Olson, Dakota Wesleyan University; and myself. Combined, each person brings his or her own expertise and downtown experience.
MMSB has invested funds earned from the many events we’ve held and hired designArc to provide us with a streetscape plan. The designers recently offered a rough idea of their visions for our downtown and I was floored with the possibilities that our community could have something so nice, so refreshing, so unique to us. In the coming months we will present their plans to the community and hope you see the future of our downtown, too. Through all of the efforts and improvements of the last four years, it’s good for us all to realize we can have, and deserve, a nice downtown.
Let’s keep the progress going, the core growing and the eyes fresh. Mitchell Main Street & Beyond supports businesses, neighbors and the community. For further information, please contact MMSB Director Molly Goldsmith at 990-4500 or myself at (605) 366-4313.
Carrie Metz-English is the president of Mitchell Main Street and Beyond.