On Sept. 20, the Kansas Department of Commerce shocked Peabody and 25 other Kansas communities with the announcement that it would eliminate the state Main Street program by noon that same day. An e-mail from Commerce Secretary Pat George informed board members and directors of all 26 Main Street programs and in moments, the economic development climate in each of those communities changed.
The state and national programs have provided technical assistance and funding to programs in all 50 states. Peabody has been a Main Street city since 1989, receiving assistance from technical advisers for simple projects such as signage or effective lighting in retail businesses to help from structural engineers, architects, and preservation experts.
The sudden action on the part of the department of commerce was distressing to those supporting the local program.
Peabody has had access to a $30,000 revolving loan pool through Kansas Main Street for 15 years. The money is used for interest-free loans to downtown businesses. There were immediate questions on the part of Peabody business owners about their scheduled payments.
Earlier assurances from the state director that emergency funds would be available to help the American Legion repair the building façade that collapsed just days before no longer meant anything.
Twenty-five other Kansas communities had similar issues and questions.
Within a few weeks, the Department of Commerce had met with community directors and, while the staff did not re-instate the program, they did allow the communities to keep their loan money and administer it as they had always done and there was assurance they would consider some funding from other department programs.
Peabody has begun making adjustments to the changes. While we still are part of the National Main Street program through the National Trust for Historic Preservation, grant funding through any national program moves slower and the competition is more difficult.
“The biggest change we will see is the loss of the revenue source for our businesses and community that we enjoyed through our state program,” said Shane Marler, Peabody Main Street and Economic Development director. “We have begun to explore new funding options and plan to continue the program.”
Peabody City Council voted Sept. 24 to continue to support the program in Peabody and instructed the city administrator to write a letter to Gov. Sam Brownback and the Department of Commerce expressing their disappointment in the action taken by the state.
Peabody Main Street fundraising efforts no longer include going door to door or business to business asking for donations. Support from the city, the benefit auction, and private donations have kept our organization financially stable.
We are able to pay for our insurance, promotions, advertising, office supplies, and these newsletters, as well as contribute to projects such as the downtown benches and planters.
There may come a time in our future when we appeal to your own sense of community and ask for your help in funding Peabody Main Street. We remain a tax-exempt 501(c)3 organization and any donation is tax deductible.
We want your hometown to be here much as you remember it the next time you visit.
In the meantime, we wish you and yours a wonderful holiday season and a prosperous New Year!
Board of Directors,
Peabody Main Street