The importance of investing into downtown development was stressed at the last task force meeting. Lynn Scarlett, the Nevada Chamber director, and Ruth Hulstrom, planning intern with the city, both attended the Iowa Downtown Conference this last week in Mason City. One of the major takeaways from the conference was that investment into the downtown has one of the highest returns on investment for the public per acre when compared to other forms of development. The number one entity that benefits is the school district.

Hulstrom also shared the necessity to continue to recruit a wide assortment of members to the task force in order to provide the most comprehensive support for downtown development. The key to success is to have all stakeholder groups, such as property owners, business owners, bankers, youth, the historical society and others, represented on the task force. This was an idea that was heavily encouraged during the first day of the conference. This day was devoted to understanding the 4-Point Approach used by the Iowa Main Street Program. More information about this program can be found at www.iowaeconomicdevelopment.com/mainstreetiowa.

In the most recent Nevada comprehensive development plan, done in 2003, an entire chapter was devoted to making downtown Nevada a vibrant place to work, live and visit. But without the greater support of the community, only limited improvements can be made.

The city has attempted to make improvements through development of the bandshell park, offering funding for downtown property improvements and having the Iowa Architectural Foundation assist with façade and signage designs. A small number of property owners have also completed façade improvements. These are all steps towards making the downtown a vibrant place.

Members of the task force shared the stories of communities who are currently participating in the Main Street Iowa Program. They were impressed by the building façade improvements that have been completed and the types of businesses that exist in those downtowns. The support that the community provided seemed to be a major factor in the success of these downtowns.

The task force will be scheduling presentations with different groups in the community to share why downtown is important and why it is key to address it now. If you are interested in having someone come present, please contact Ruth Hulstrom, hulstrom@iastate.edu or 515-382-5466.