Study: Main Street Iowa sees $1.1 billion in investments

Organization helped create 11,500 jobs and 3,800 net businesses in Iowa

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Since its inception in 1986, Main Street Iowa has helped create 11,500 jobs and 3,800 net businesses throughout the state, according to a recent economic impact study.

And these 3,800 businesses in turn have generated about $43 million in sales taxes for fiscal year 2012.

The study, conducted by Washington, D.C.-based consulting company PlaceEconomics and released through the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA), analyzed 26 year's worth of data from Iowa's 49 Main Street communities.

The economic development program focuses on revitalizing historic commercial districts in large urban areas, small towns and medium-sized cities. 

"The biggest advantage of the Main Street Iowa program is that it empowers cities," said Tina Hoffman, marketing and communications director for IEDA. "So that when a city says, 'Hey, we want to do something different,' we can give the community the tools to help themselves."

Another key finding: Main Street districts have seen a $1.1 billion investment in building rehabilitation and acquisition. About 44 percent of investments took place in towns with fewer than 50,000 residents.

"In small communities the business environment has changed," Hoffman said. "There are buildings that are run down or not in use and rehabilitation  allows for communities to reuse that building in a different way to fit today's needs."

Those investments have a ripple effect. Other than creating about 623 construction jobs every year since the program began, it creates housing and retail options and  increases the property's value.

The reinvestments have spurred more than $10.8 million annually in additional property tax revenues for local government, according to the study.

"When a community gets together and rehabilitates a building and finds it new tenants, it is able to reinvigorate the tax base," Hoffman said. "The local governments can then use that for other needs."

One Corridor Main Street program, Central City Main Street, has seen 16 net gains in business starts, 20 new jobs and 46 buildings that have been rehabilitated. The Czech Village-New Bohemia Main Street District in Cedar Rapids has had 46 new business starts, 186 new jobs and 28 buildings that have been rehabilitated.

Marion was selected as a Main Street community in January 2013.

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