Nevada business leaders were invited to a luncheon meeting last week to learn more about the pursuit for Nevada to become a Main Street Iowa community.

Steve Skaggs, who is on the Nevada steering committee for Main Street Iowa (MSI), said the quest to become a MSI community is linked to the program’s focus on thriving downtowns.

“If you don’t have a healthy downtown … you just don’t have a healthy town,” he said. “Downtown…is the heart of Nevada.”

The steering committee is made up of Nevadans who represent several important entities in the community, such as the hospital, the city, various businesses and the historical society. Historical perspective is important because MSI is not only focused on the revitalization of downtown, but also in preserving its history.

In talking about MSI, the steering committee has determined there are many ways the program can benefit Nevada. First off, it’s a catalyst for change. “If you’re not growing, you’re dying,” Skaggs noted.

Other ways the program can help in Nevada include creating a vision, providing communication and collaboration, helping the community find resources for funding, promoting urban-style living (living in downtown is a trendy thing right now) and leadership development.

One of the biggest parts of MSI, Skaggs said, is volunteerism. Main Street Iowa communities calculate amazing numbers of volunteer hours and help direct how volunteers can best be utilized.

Skaggs asked how many had visited State Center lately. This central Iowa community, not far from Nevada, has had $10 million invested into its downtown and completed 93 projects since becoming a Main Street Iowa community. Skaggs shared that if a little town like State Center can find the funding and volunteers to make things happen, Nevada should be able to find success too.

“We’re a little late to the party … but now is the time,” Skaggs said. “We have all the pieces in place… we’re ready to go.”

So far, Nevada’s MSI steering committee has taken part in MSI training, submitted its intent to apply and is now working on a very lengthy and detailed application. MSI will choose two cities to be added to its program this year. “We’re planning on Nevada being one of them,” Skaggs said.

A formal presentation will be made by the steering committee to MSI on July 30. “We have to show them we want it more than anybody else,” Skaggs said.

Already, the steering committee has received confirmation of support from the city of Nevada, a requirement with the application. Eventually, Skaggs said, if selected as a Main Street Iowa community, “we’re going to need a director.”

Skaggs said the plan is for MSI to utilize the current Nevada Chamber of Commerce office on Sixth Street. When asked how the two entities, the chamber and Main Street Iowa will work together, Skaggs said the intent is to have the Chamber “morph” into Main Street Iowa. He said the hope is that current members of the Chamber will continue to be members with MSI, and when setting up a budget for the program, as must be shown in the application, they have counted on most of those current Chamber membership dues becoming part of the MSI budget. Skaggs hopes that even those Chamber member businesses that aren’t located on Main Street, will see how they, too, can benefit from a healthy downtown, and therefore will continue to be part of the program.

The meeting last week, a luncheon held at Gatherings, was part of the “educating the community” process that Nevada’s steering committee members are currently engaged in and plan to continue. They asked those in attendance to fill out a survey and complete a form that asked for financial pledges, as well as whether or not people are willing to volunteer. Skaggs also mentioned that the steering committee is looking for ideas of what Nevada’s “niche” will be. In Woodbine, he used as an example, the niche has been art.

The immediate goal, Skaggs explained, is to be sure the program has funding for its first three years. “It’s a three-year process to really become fully enveloped in this program…,” he noted. He encouraged that community members can keep up with the MSI process and events through Facebook:

Longtime business owner Wayne Johnson, now retired, was in attendance at the meeting and said he recalled back in 1987 that a group of Nevada business people had traveled to Jefferson with an interest in the Main Street Iowa program for Nevada. “I want to thank this group for bringing it back again,” he said.

MSI steering committee member Stephanie Badger said a “town hall meeting” about MSI will be held on Wednesday, May 15, at The Talent Factory so that residents can come to hear about Nevada’s plans for Main Street Iowa and ask questions. The meeting will begin at 5:30 p.m.