Seymour Main Street will soon have important data to help attract, retain and develop businesses downtown.
That’s thanks to a $100,000 grant funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development office, which will fund economic plans by Ball State University.
The organization was selected by the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs as one of nine main street organizations for the Impact Main Street program, announced Monday by Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch.
Each of the nine organizations will work with the university’s Indiana Communities Institute to design and implement business investment strategies for their downtown district, according to an OCRA news release.
Other communities listed for the pilot program are Dillsboro, Elwood, Fairmount, La Porte, Rockville, Sullivan, Tell City and Tipton.
Becky Schepman, executive director of Seymour Main Street, said it was an exciting day for the organization she has led since January 2017.
“I feel very hopeful and excited,” she said. “It was a great day for our downtown.”
Schepman said she already has spoken with representatives from the university, and they discussed the plan with her about priorities here. The plan would be tailored to the organization’s needs.
Schepman outlined priorities with the group as adding more restaurants, and with the closing of Java Joint earlier this year, a coffee shop.
“I think a lot of people would like to see those two things downtown,” she said.
Schepman said she was told Seymour and Fairmount will be the first of the communities to receive their reports.
“That’s an exciting thing for us,” she said.
Schepman said representatives from the university will produce a report with more than 40 market data points.
That will provide the organization with a guide and a plan while trying to attract businesses downtown.
“When I’m going out and trying to recruit a restaurant or something, I will have that information,” she said. “This gives us recruitment tools.”
Schepman said Ball State representatives immediately discussed the growth in population in Jackson County. That positions this community to take advantage of such a report, she said.
With a population of 43,844, the county is the 34th most populous of the state’s 92 counties. Jackson County has grown by 1,299 people since 2010, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
The downtown district, which stretches from parts of West Laurel Street north to Sixth Street and from Walnut Street east to Broadway Street, has more than 60 businesses and is growing.
Four businesses have closed so far this year, but 10 more have either opened or expanded, Schepman said.
That represents a net of six businesses that either opened or expanded this year. Two of the four that closed have seen businesses move into those spaces, too.
Schepman said that means the report comes at a good time. About 20 retail businesses participate in Downtown Shop Around events that take place each month.
Businesses downtown include retail, food, service and other types of businesses. It also is home to many nonprofit organizations.
The report will provide a road map to offer more businesses to the community.
“I’m looking forward to having this,” Schepman said.