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Main Street celebrates its 20th year

Published: Sunday, April 14, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

Community leaders from across Illinois marked the 20th anniversary of the state’s Main Street economic development program recently with a rally emphasizing the thousands of jobs it helps create. Downtown Crystal Lake Main Street is a Premier member of the program and Executive Director Diana Kenney was the featured speaker on the program with Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon and state Sen. Pamela Althoff.

“For my community of Crystal Lake, Illinois Main Street has enabled us to take a struggling downtown and turn it into a thriving downtown,” Kenney said. “This wasn’t accomplished by a handout – for we get no funds from the state. This was accomplished by a hand-up; by encouraging us to respect our history, build a strong organization, fill our empty spaces with businesses, and bring people together to celebrate this success.

“All across the state, dozens of Illinois communities have experienced the same success through the support of the Illinois Main Street Program,” she continued. “Our task is not done; for there is always unfinished work, which we are dedicated here to continue.”

Illinois Main Street has produced more than $675 million in private investment in downtowns, along with $250 million spent on public improvements since 1993. That means a net gain of more than 1,200 new businesses and 5,400 full-time jobs.

Illinois Main Street is part of a successful national movement to revitalize America’s traditional downtowns, neighborhood business districts and urban corridors.

“The downtowns of Illinois communities are full of history. We want to help them make even more history,” said Amy Martin, director of the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency. “Working together, we can reinvigorate them while preserving their beauty and architecture.”

Forty-four communities are part of Illinois Main Street, from Waukegan in the north to Golconda in the south. Many are small towns, but Main Street Illinois also includes cities like Bloomington, Rock Island and two areas in Chicago.

“Downtowns and neighborhood business districts can account for nearly one-third of a community’s job and revenue sources. Downtowns also define the local identity and ‘sense of place,’” said Christina Rogers, the Illinois Main Street coordinator.

“Our commitment to Illinois Main Street must remain solid as a strong force of towns, and by our examples and efforts, we can help more communities throughout the state of Illinois achieve success through preservation-based economic development of their own historic downtown districts,” Kenney said.

• Email ccashman@shawmedia.com

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