Charlotte is one of only three communities selected statewide for economic development program to revitalize downtown area
CHARLOTTE, MICH. – National, state and local leaders, along with downtown businesses came together today in Charlotte to formally announce the community’s acceptance into Michigan Main Street’s Select Level. Charlotte is one of only three communities selected statewide for this transformational economic development program this year.
The Michigan Main Street Center’s Select Level program is a five-year program designed to provide communities with intensive technical assistance and best practices to help build and revitalize downtown areas.
“Charlotte has now joined a network of 20 other full-fledged Michigan Main Street communities,” said Katharine Czarnecki, senior vice president of community development at the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. “It’s great to watch what you have been accomplishing from down the street in Lansing. Main Street is such a heavily invested program with its volunteers – we could not be successful without them. Kudos to your volunteers because it makes a difference in a successful Main Street program. On behalf of MEDC, Michigan Main Street, all the members of CharlotteRising and the City of Charlotte, congratulations again.”
In less than one year, Charlotte moved from the associate level, the entry level program with Michigan Main Street, to the Select Level – something the Michigan Economic Development Corporation perceived as a lofty goal.
“They said 12 months was ambitious to become a Select Level community,” said Jason Vanderstelt, CharlotteRising board member and local business owner. “We said we could do it and we have done it. CharlotteRising is a movement and a robust organization. We are rising and will reach our potential.
There has been a groundswell of positive momentum for this previously economically-depressed community. Like many communities in the late 2000s, Charlotte’s downtown area suffered as a result of the economic recession. However, leaders today nodded to the strong work-ethic and resilient community members as reasons for the community’s recent success and growth, and the invitation to this new program.
“We know this community wants change,” said Norma Ramirez de Miess, senior program office and director of leadership development at the National Main Street Center. “Change happens – we can’t avoid it – but we can manage it so it happens the way we want it and that’s what we are doing here in your community.
In addition to Michigan Main Street, Charlotte is receiving additional support through Gov. Rick Snyder’s Rising Tide Program, which provides at-risk communities with tools needed to design and build a successful economic framework. Charlotte is one of only 10 communities in the state selected for this program. Having these two programs in the community’s economic development and revitalization arsenal will help the community move further, faster.
“Charlotte exemplifies the spirit of the Rising Tide initiative," Gov. Snyder said. "The purpose was for the state to find a way that it could help a community help itself. The people of Charlotte are clearly coming together to solve problems and working hard to put their community on a solid path toward the future."
One local business owner, Travis Lyon from Charlotte Shoe Repair, shared his perspective on the benefits of these programs for his business as well as the shifting community perception.
“About three years ago I came into the Charlotte community and purchased a shoe repair,” Lyons said. “I saw the potential and opportunities Charlotte had to offer. Since then we quadrupled sales, moved into a larger location and hired seven employees. The people in this community have pulled together more than any town I’ve seen before. We are getting the momentum we need so others can jump on this rising boat.”
Last year alone, Michigan Main Street Center was responsible for generating $47 million in private investment, 100 new businesses and 120 façade improvements statewide, according to the organization’s 2015-16 annual report. While the initial focus for Charlotte is the downtown district, today’s leaders made clear this program is an asset for not only the local community, but for Greater Lansing and mid-Michigan communities alike.