Downtown Revitalization Specialist
Appalachian Regional Commission
What is your area of expertise?
I work predominantly with downtown projects and tourism projects—anything that can increase business activity, spur entrepreneurial efforts, and build local economies within the city context or the town context.
Are there things that work for small towns?
There absolutely are things that work. One of the main benefits that small towns have that they don’t often consider, is that the network of individuals is very well known. So you know the person to talk to if you want the expert in sports. You know the person to talk to if you need a bank loan for example. There are all these assets that individuals in small towns know off the top of their heads that people in large cities will have to do a lot of research to find. I’d say that is one of the primary drivers.
Also, I’d say that there’s a sort of optimism that can build in successful small towns. That’s infectious and it’s also a primary motivator of young adults within a community. Whenever you have that dynamic going in a small town, it’s a huge asset.
Can small towns turn to you for help?
Absolutely. The Appalachian Regional Commission has been around since 1965 and we’ve always specialized in predominantly rural communities, particularly if they are economically distressed. We provide grant funding predominantly, and we’ll work with local communities and non-profits to increase their capacity to build a central infrastructure and really just listen to them about what their community needs. We’re a pretty flexible agency as most people who work with us know.
Do you provide consulting help in addition to money?
We don’t get enough opportunities to consult directly, but we’re always happy to help people find the resources within their state that do provide those services. We’re also happy to pay for a private analysis of certain situations through our grant funding program. So if you’re doing a downtown revitalization plan, or if you are looking at capacity and strategies for growth, we can help you with funding to provide that direct consulting experience that you need.
What do you wish that small town mayors and town managers knew that they don’t know?
I would say talk to the faceless bureaucrats at the state and federal government, because we would love to know you and we’d love to work with you. I say that about myself of course, but I’m also talking about my colleagues that are in other federal agencies, like the EPA, the EDA, USDA RD – all of these people who work within your region and have you in their footprint, their jobs are to help you succeed. Their jobs are to try to find ways to leverage the funding that’s available to them to improve communities. Don’t feel hesitant about contacting people. Don’t feel like you’re wasting our time, because you’re not. We’re here to listen to you to help you get your projects out the door.