Main Street has proven time and again that it is the only proven engine behind any economic recovery.
As consumers and neighbors, we don't feel confident about spending our dollars when our local shops on Main Street don't sparkle, and there are vacancy signs in every other window. In fact, for some neighborhoods, those vacancy signs are just the beginning of a downturn to crime and vandalism.
Remember the recessions of the 1980's when storefronts were dark? Remember the boom times of the 1990's when stores were filled, shopkeepers were smiling and confidence was at an all time high?
Main Street is a reflection of our confidence as individuals, as a community and as a country. Look at the beautiful Main Streets of Maryland from Berlin, Easton, St Michaels, Salisbury, Cambridge and Chestertown. The stores in each unique historic setting bring tourists from big cities as far as 200 miles away. Maryland's economy depends on each and every one of those local businesses to serve as a magnet for tourism dollars.
Wendy's Dream for Hampden
Wendy Rosen's career has been devoted to the needs of America's smallest businesses and creative start-ups. The Mill Centre small business and studio complex in Hampden was my first urban revitalization dream. It only took two years to turn a civil war cotton mill into an incubator for start-up businesses and an economic engine that fed the local economy.
In 1984, Hampden area homes averaged $50,000 in value. Today Hampden area homes average $200,000 in value. Vacant storefronts on the "Avenue" are gone, replaced by galleries, gift shops, salons, cafes and great restaurants. The "Avenue" sparkles every evening as locals enjoy the "Hairspray" culture of the neighborhood.
What did this project cost Maryland and the US government? One community development LOAN of $545,000 created $200,000,000 in home equity growth and $6,000,000 in annual tax revenue for the state of Maryland. Add hundreds of new jobs created over the past 25 years of continued revitalization and you've got a great return on public investment.