McCook's Main Street program needs to be renewed
Without question, McCook was one of the most successful Main Street programs in the state. The proof came in the form of a host of awards, harvested by McCook's downtown district in statewide competition with other Main Street participants.
Despite the many honors, McCook dropped out of the program. The withdrawal came about because of lack of funding and the Main Street group's failure to connect with the McCook Chamber of Commerce, the McCook Economic Development Corp. and the City of McCook.
Now, a new attempt is being made for McCook's downtown district to affiliate with the Lied-sponsored Main Street organization in Nebraska. The first step was taken last Thursday when the director of the state Main Street effort, J.L. Schmidt, came to McCook to meet with representatives of the downtown district.
Showing how important Schmidt regards McCook's renewed participation, he brought along two state leaders to encourage the effort and to listen to the McCookites' concerns. Nebraska's lieutenant governor, Rick Sheehy, sat in on the session, as did State Sen. Tom Baker of Trenton.
Why was a gathering in downtown McCook so important? Because a lot is at stake. In calendar year 2004, McCook generated more than $128 million in net taxable sales, of which a significant share was from retail transactions in the central business district.
But, in the retail world, challenges are ever-growing and ever-changing. That's why McCook needs to renew participation in the Main Street program, says Bill Longnecker, who operates two downtown businesses and also is a member of the McCook City Council. Even though the downtown district has not participated in the program for several years, Longnecker said McCook is still regarded as "The Poster Child" for Main Street in Nebraska.
"We need the program because of the benefit it will give us for downtown architecture, economics, grants, retail business and promotional ideas," he said.
Pam Harsh, executive director of the McCook Chamber of Commerce, and Rex Nelson, executive director of the McCook Economic Development Corp., both said that renewal of the Main Street program in McCook deserves consideration. "We're always open to new approaches," Harsh said. Nelson agreed, complimenting merchants for what they have accomplished, but urging them to further develop their potential.
Longnecker, Harsh and Nelson are pointing the community in the right direction. The Main Street idea should be pursued. With the encouragement and support of the city, the chamber and the EDC, a coordinated improvement program would build on McCook's already vibrant downtown business district.