The Montana Department of Commerce and its innovative work is increasingly being recognized as a national leader in the development and revitalization of local community downtowns and main streets.
Montana’s Main Street Program Coordinator Tash Wisemiller shared some of the state’s best practices for revitalizing our charming small towns at the Convergence of Health, Place, and the Economy this week in Denver. Wisemiller was on hand to share how innovative approaches to downtown revitalization here in Montana can be applied in other states and regions.
“It’s notable that the local ideas and accomplishments supported by the Montana Main Street Program are gaining national attention and are viewed as models of downtown revitalization,” Commerce Director Pam Haxby-Cote said. “These local efforts represent the importance of community health, walkability, historic preservation, and downtown business vitality, all of which combine to create vibrant and charming communities that are sought-after places to live, work, and play.”
According to new tourism market research commissioned by Commerce, travelers seek out Montana’s small towns, and said exploring them would be one of their preferred activities while visiting. Last year, a record 12.4 million visitors from out of state, or 12 new customers per Montana resident for main street businesses, spent $3.5 billion in Montana.
Working with local community leaders and business owners, Commerce’s Main Street Program has helped Montana communities strengthen and preserve their historic downtown commercial districts by fostering comprehensive economic development, downtown revitalization, tourism development, and historic preservation through long-range planning, organization, design, and promotion.
In 2016, Montana Main Street hosted a national placemaking workshop in Helena and coauthored an article in a national publication on designing healthy places through community development. Since the May 2016 Helena workshop, Montana communities have used the training to implement more than 40 placemaking projects across Montana with $2.6 million of public and private funds invested.