Facts About Why the State Should Invest in Main Street Programs

On April 8, I attended my first “legislation day” in Harrisburg and it was a very worthwhile experience to see how legislators are bombarded with various interest groups and very difficult decisions.  I was there to encourage legislators to increase the Keystone Communities Program line item in the DCED budget to $15 million.

The Pennsylvania Downtown Center, (PDC), works for the PA Department of Community and Economic Development to provide administrative oversight of the Main Street and Elm Street Community programs.  The Keystone Communities Program is the funding source for the Main Street, Elm Street, Enterprise Zone and Accessible Housing Programs.  On Legislative Day, Main Street and Elm Street Managers met with their legislators and provided important information to request a partial reinstatement of funding that had been cut in the previous administration.  Following are important facts that PDC published about the return on investment that Main Street and Elm Street Programs provide to the local and state economies.

“In 2009, these programs had $56 million available, or roughly $5.00 for each person in the Commonwealth.  Today, before supplemental appropriations, the Keystone Communities Program has about $6.5 million, or roughly $ .54 for each person in the Commonwealth – a decrease of almost 90%.

Area Development Magazine, a major national publication for site selection firms, lists “quality of life” as the fourth most important factor that corporations, developers and site selection consultants are looking for when making investment decisions.  This places “qualify of life” before factors such as tax exemptions, corporate tax rates, low union profiles and training incentives.  The second most important factor in the same survey is the availability of skilled talent, which is directly related to quality of life.

The Keystone Communities Program is the Commonwealth’s primary quality of life program.  Pennsylvania is not investing sufficient funds in enhancing the quality of life in Pennsylvania communities, especially small town and rural communities, to make them competitive in a 21st Century knowledge-based economy.  In the 2018-2019 Commonwealth fiscal year, the demand for funds from the Keystone Communities Program is $20.2 million from 103 applications, meaning requests exceed funds by almost $14 million.

A study conducted by Stover and Associates for the National Main Street Center, indicated that in 2016, the direct return to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania  for each dollar invested in Main Street community initiatives resulted in a return of $7.87 back to Commonwealth coffers.  ($1 to $7.87)

Since 1980 when PDC began collecting data, there has been over $1.43 BILLION invested in Main Street Community improvement projects.

Revenue options that could fund an increase in the Keystone Communities Program line item are:

·         New gambling/gaming (sports betting) revenue or medical marijuana revenue

·         A dedicated portion of the hotel tax revenue

·         A slight, dedicated increase in the cigarette tax – major litter generator in downtowns”

Gettysburg’s Main Street program has leveraged private, county, state and federal funding to achieve more than $55 million of improvements that otherwise could not have been achieved.  The revitalization of Steinwehr Avenue and many of the refurbished historic buildings in town are examples.  The Baltimore Street Revitalization project will depend on state financial support.

Please share these facts and your support with your state legislator because investing in Main Street programs maximizes state funds in multiple ways to support our local, regional and state communities.