PORTERDALE -- The city of Porterdale is in the process of applying with the Georgia Department of Community Affairs to be a Main Street community.
Main Street is a national program facilitated in Georgia by the Department of Community Affairs.
"What we want to do is sustain the businesses we already have and bring more successful businesses to our downtown," said City Manager Bob Thomson. The city has already hired a part-time downtown manager, Teri Haler, who will be charged with facilitating the Main Street application process. Thomson said Haler's background as a member of the Main Street Covington Board of Directors will be an asset.
Haler will be working with planning intern Kristi Korngold, who is helping to plan the future of downtown Porterdale. The temporary position is funded by a grant from the Georgia Municipal Association. Thomson said it's possible the downtown area could be expanded in the future.
"Downtown is the heart of most communities and we have a very small one, and we'd like to strengthen it and attract businesses that would profit from being next to the river," Thomson said.
The part-time downtown director position will be funded out of the general fund and, if Porterdale obtains Main Street accreditation, initial funding for that program will also come out of the general fund, Thomson said. He said he does not at this time have a program cost estimate. Thomson said additional revenues will possibly be generated for the program once the historic gymnasium is renovated and can be rented for events.
Getting accredited will be a two-year process, but first Porterdale must be selected by DCA to participate in the start-up program.
In the past the state has allowed communities to apply for Main Street status at any time, said Billy Peppers, director of downtown development for DCA. The start-up process is two years and communities were allowed to complete the process at a self-prescribed pace.
Now, there is a fixed application period from July 1 to Aug. 31. Communities that want to apply can fill out a web-based application and a representative must attend a workshop in Savannah, this year held on Aug. 13. Porterdale has not yet applied. Peppers said he anticipates many communities will wait until after the Aug. 13 conference.
Communities selected for the program will be announced in November. During the next two years, communities will receive the necessary training and assistance to become nationally accredited. Accreditation will come at the end of 2014 and graduation from the start-up program takes place in summer 2015. The next round of applications will commence in summer 2015.
DCA is not limiting the number of communities selected, Peppers said. Communities differ in size and assets, so they are not competing against each other, he said.
"What we look for is a community that has the leadership and capacity in place to actually implement the program and the funding in place to support the program," he said, adding DCA also wants some downtown planning to have taken place.
Of the 530 cities in Georgia, 96 are Main Street communities, including the city of Covington. Main Street communities receive free technical assistance from DCA that includes help with marketing, training, design issues, planning corridors, fundraising and more. They are also eligible to receive bonus points when applying for grants and loans. Main Street communities receive lower interest rates -- 2 percent versus 3 percent -- on DDA Revolving Loan funds that help renovate downtown businesses, for example.