Perry first under new Main Street Affiliate program

chwright@macon.comNovember 14, 2012 

PERRY -- A state development official visited the city Wednesday as part of a tour of state-recognized downtown areas, but Perry is unique among those and all others throughout the state.

Perry is one of four cities Commissioner Mike Beatty, of the Department of Community Affairs, will visit this week. But it’s the one and only under a new state program for commercial districts not eligible for the regular Main Street program.

“We were looking for ways to include communities that maybe didn’t fit all of the criteria,” Beatty said.

Perry recently became the first city under the Department of Community Affairs Office of Downtown Development’s Main Street Affiliate program. The program falls under the traditional Main Street program, which provides assistance to Georgia cities’ historical commercial districts.

Perry redid its downtown facades in the 1960s, pushing it out of the 50-year window required to enter the Main Street program.

Beatty said he expects more cities to join the affiliate program, as newer downtown areas also need state resources to rebuild what his department views as the basis for economic development.

“We believe our downtown areas are key” to economic growth, Beatty said. “Private job creation is the governor’s number one goal, and it’s our number one goal at DCA.”

Both programs connect cities with organizations and specialists for development.

Beatty encouraged council members and members of Perry’s boards to utilize his department’s information and contacts to help their downtown area, along Carroll Street, flourish.

“You could probably do a ton of business here given a little bit of focus,” Beatty said, noting the city’s proximity to Interstate 75.

The commissioner said the city should push special tax-incentive districts and suggested it join the DCA’s new BOOMtown -- Building Opportunity of Main Street -- program. It would pair Perry with another city to share growth strategies.

Beatty told city officials to begin drafting bankers, accountants and attorneys to aid merchants in building their businesses.

Mary Beth Chew, the city’s economic development coordinator, said City Council appointed a new board to oversee the Main Street Affiliate program. It consists of members from the city’s seven boards responsible for revitalizing the commercial district.

She said the next project, spearheaded by the Downtown Development Authority, is an updated facade program that will eventually return the buildings to their original appearances.

Once done, the city may join the main Main Street program.

To contact writer Christina M. Wright, call 256-9685.

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