Powell is now an affiliate of the Wyoming Main Street Program, a statewide initiative dedicated to downtowns and their revitalization. The Powell Valley Chamber of Commerce announced its acceptance into the program Friday.
Under the program, the chamber will create a new nonprofit organization dedicated to Main Street Powell, defined as three blocks of Bent Street and side streets as offshoots.
A main priority is to maintain downtown Powell as “a social, cultural and financial hub of our community,” Jaime Schmeiser, executive director of the Powell Valley Chamber of Commerce, wrote in the application.
The Wyoming Main Street Program will provide assistance for the local effort through consultations, training, grant opportunities and additional resources.
“We as a community will have access to more resources for what we already do as a chamber,” Schmeiser said.
She said she believes the program will help existing businesses thrive instead of just survive while also encouraging dollars to be spent locally and strengthening businesses.
“Our main focus is to preserve our downtowns,” said Stacey Reichardt of Wheatland, who serves on the Wyoming Main Street Advisory Board. “That’s key to what this program is about, to preserve all the qualities of our downtowns — not just the buildings, but the history and the camaraderie.”
The board considered Powell’s application during a meeting Jan. 24 in Cody, and the Wyoming Business Council notified Powell of its acceptance in a letter received Thursday.
In a presentation to the advisory board, Schmeiser said the Main Street Program would be a “natural fit” under the chamber’s umbrella of services.
She said the chamber receives suggestions from residents who would like to see more “downtown beautification efforts, more economic diversification, more tourists, more attractions to entice our college students to stay in Powell and more opportunities for our youth to stay and raise their families in this wonderful city.”
Creating a Main Street Powell organization under the statewide program will help make those improvements a reality, Schmeiser said.
Powell is the first Main Street community in the Wyoming Business Council’s Northwest Region, covering Park, Big Horn, Hot Springs and Washakie counties.
City Administrator Zane Logan expressed his support for the program.
“The city’s responsibility, first and foremost, should be infrastructure,” said Logan during the Jan. 24 meeting. “… but you can’t just have infrastructure. You have to have businesses and community.”
He said throughout the city, you can see residents and businesses have pride in Powell, “and this is just an extension of that.”
Powell Economic Partnership Executive Director Christine Bekes said the chamber, PEP, the city of Powell and other local organizations already have a strong partnership and will continue to collaborate closely on community projects.
“Our town is amazing at partnering together,” she said.
The Main Street Program has a heavy emphasis on partnership and involving volunteers on projects, Schmeiser said.
She said the initial focus includes partnering with the city for district-wide improvements such as street beautification, financial incentives for building improvements and working with the community to have a consistent message when marketing and promoting Powell.
Installing way-finding signs in the downtown areas will likely be one of the first projects, Schmeiser said.
“We want a consistent look downtown,” she said.
Wyoming Main Street is a program of the Wyoming Rural Development Council and a division of the Wyoming Business Council. It follows the National Main Street Center’s Four Point Approach, focusing on design, promotion, organization and economic restructuring.
Over the years, Powell’s downtown has followed the Four Point Approach, even though it wasn’t a member of the Main Street Program, said Leah Bruscino, the Northwest Region director of the Wyoming Business Council. She gave the example of major Bent Street renovations in the 1990s.
In its application, the chamber defined Powell’s main street area as three blocks of Bent Street with the side street offshoots. The chamber board will initially govern the program, but a separate board will likely be formed to oversee it, Schmeiser said.
“The Main Street Affiliate designation will be another arm of the Chamber of Commerce and not a separate organization, so we will not be collecting memberships or membership dues,” she said.
Schmeiser said the Main Street Powell program will seek designation as a charitable nonprofit called a 501(c)(3), different than the chamber’s designation as a 501(c)(6).
“That would allow us to give tax deductions to donors to the program and enable us to apply for more grants and other resources not currently available to a nonprofit Chamber of Commerce,” she said.
For the Main Street program to succeed, it’s crucial for local residents to be involved, said Jim Davis of Evanston, the vice chair of the Wyoming Main Street Advisory Board.
“It doesn’t come out without a lot of work, and it’s very volunteer-driven,” Davis said. “This program won’t be successful if Jaime (Schmeiser) does all of the work.”
Involving retailers also is crucial, board members said.
Davis emphasized the various requirements for a Wyoming Main Street community: the board to oversee the organization, a corps of volunteers, annual attendance at a Main Street 101 training session, annual attendance at a national workshop, quarterly reports and contracts with the state.
He added that all of the work is worth it.
“There are great benefits to becoming an affiliate,” he said. “Powell is a beautiful place. You have a wonderful community.”