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New era dawns

The nonprofit group weighs pros-cons
of operating without a paid director

Madison Main Street Program
reinvents itself with new leaders

By Debra Maylum
Staff Writer

MADISON, Ind. (March 2005) – Madison’s Main Street has long been a source of pride for the community and an attraction for visitors from across the country. The Madison Main Street Program, a team of residents, merchants, property owners and other interested citizens, joins more than 1,200 communities across the country in the common goal of “revitalizing and promoting America’s historic downtowns in order to maintain them as economically vibrant parts of their communities.”

Nancy Gruner

Nancy Gruner

Like most non-profit organizations, the Madison Main Street Program has experienced a range of ups and downs over the years. Emerging from a time when there was little activity, a new Board of Directors is enthusiastic about the program’s continued success.
While the board is dedicated to the success of one of the oldest Main Streets in the nation, these volunteers are currently running the program with no full time director. The lack of a director or manager in place to handle daily operations means that the program is missing a key element, some say. The guidelines set by the National Main Street Association require that a Main Street Program have a full-time director to qualify as a certified Main Street Program.
“A full-time staff person brings Main Street to the next level; it enhances and strengthens the program,” said Mark McConoghy, Indiana State Main Street director.
Officials say that no matter how active a board or its volunteers, a full-time director or manager is vital to the success of a Main Street Program. “It is like the fifth point on the four-point approach,” said Roger Stapleton, Main Street State coordinator with the state of Kentucky. “You need somebody day in and day out (working on Main Street projects), or the board will get burnt out very quickly.”
“Having a paid executive director is definitely a program goal,” said board president Nancy Gruner. “We could do a lot more with a paid staff, however securing long-term funding for that person has to come first.”

Kim Nyberg

Kim Nyberg

Other officials say a director is so vital that Madison needs to find a way to make it possible. “Putting a full-time director in place needs to be a priority because there is only so much a volunteer is capable of,” said Stapleton. “A lot of things can slip through the cracks when someone is not (attending to the program) daily.”
A Main Street Program serves as a management program for the downtown commercial district. “A director and an office allows the program to have a presence. Someone is there to answer questions. They serve as a point of entry for new business and give the downtown a voice,” said Kim Franklin-Nyberg of Historic Madison Inc. She worked as the Madison Main Street Program director from 1993 until 2000.
Local Main Street Programs run under the guidelines of the National Main Street Program, a division of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The state and national programs serve as a framework from which local programs can base their operations. “We are independent from them, but they give us a format to work through, and we do our best to follow that,” said Gruner.
The Main Street organization is unique in that the Board of Directors are also volunteers, committee members and workers.
“The program can operate without a director because of that,” said Nyberg. “But a director adds to that the right tools and enthusiasm and works with the board and the volunteers to make the program the best it can be.
The Main Street Program is organized to receive one-third of its funding from the city, one-third from fund raising and one-third from membership. In order to operate at its best and be in a position to hire paid staff, says Gruner, the community must get behind the program. Sponsorship currently covers the costs of programs, such as Music in the Park and others that the community enjoys. These events highlight Madison’s downtown as a fun and vibrant place to be, she said.
With or without a director, “our ultimate goal is downtown revitalization and maintaining a strong healthy downtown,” said McConoghy. With a new board in place, the members are still learning what each has to offer.
“We are in the process of working on goals,” said Gruner. “There is a wealth of talent and a lot that we can do. People are taking responsibility and taking on projects..”
With no definite timeline for when a full-time director might be brought on, Gruner says that a part-time administrative person or even an intern are temporary options they are considering. The 2005 Madison Main Street Program membership drive will begin in May.
“There is potential for great membership in Madison,” said Nyberg. “The Main Street Program does not just benefit its members. When the downtown is thriving, the entire community benefits. As the new Board of Directors puts programs in place and sets new goals, people will see what they do and say ‘yes, I like this,’ then they will begin to jump on board and support the program.”

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