United States Department of Agriculture and National Main Street announced Nov. 4 that USDA awarded Kansas Main Street, Inc. a Rural Development Grant to restart the Kansas program to benefit communities and entrepreneurs in Kansas.
In a presentation at Emporia, Senator Jerry Moran and USDA representative Patty Clark announced the initiative.
“Economic development in many of the communities I represent can just be whether or not there is a grocery store,” Moran said. “And almost no one in Washington, D.C., can understand how that can be an issue anywhere.
“The difference between a community in Kansas that has a future and one that may not, is not Washington, D.C.,” he said. “It is the people in that community who have decided ‘we want a future.’ They want to create the circumstances to have a chance to raise their children and their children’s children in the places they call home.”
Moran and Clark acknowledged the success Main Street programs have had in small towns nationwide.
When reached for comment, former state coordinator to the Kansas Main Street program, Mary Helmer, was familiar with the effort to attain a Rural Development grant.
“Partnering with USDA is a great fit for Kansas,” she said. “They understand the needs of rural communities.”
Helmer said the job description for the position of state coordinator has been posted and is expected to be filled before January. Services to existing communities will begin immediately.
Peabody was one of the first communities accepted into the Main Street Small Cities program in 1989. It remained in the state program until Kansas Department of Commerce abruptly shut off state funding in 2011 as a cost-cutting measure.
Former Peabody Main Street director Shane Marler said getting the program reinstated will be a boost for economic development in many small towns.
“There isn’t a great deal of information out there right now, but I expect it will operate much the same as it did,” he said. “It looks as though communities with existing programs will be given a chance to pick up where they left off. That is pretty good news.”
Since the demise of the state program, Peabody Main Street has been operating on a minimal budget provided by T-shirt sales, sale of commemorative items, private donations, and annual interest from its account with Peabody Community Foundation.
The only state money still being administered is the loan pool to provide interest-free loans to businesses for building repairs, inventory, and interior or exterior upgrades. An annual report is filed with Kansas Department of Commerce.
Peabody Main Street still sponsors Trunk or Treat downtown for Halloween, the annual Christmas Shopping Spree to encourage local holiday shopping, and purchases plants for the downtown planters. The group also provides Peabody Bucks for parade prizes on July 4th, and sponsors a display piece at the fireworks show.