Main Street Iowa hosted the 31st annual Main Street Iowa Awards Celebration on Friday, April 7, at Hoyt Sherman Place in Des Moines. The program honored the efforts of those who work day in and day out in downtown revitalization in Iowa. The event was attended by approximately 550 individuals representing communities across the state.

Main Street Iowa has annually presented awards honoring outstanding accomplishments, activities and people that are making a difference in Iowa’s Main Street districts. Projects large and small are recognized and serve as outstanding examples of what historic commercial district revitalization is all about.

Shannon Hayden, former assistant director of the Story City Greater Chamber Connection, was a recipient of a Leadership Award. The Leadership Awards were meant to recognize “inspirational leadership and volunteers who make significant contributions to the local Main Street programs’ downtown revitalization mission,” according to Main Street Iowa.

Fifteen projects and activities occurring in local Main Street communities were selected to be recognized from the 160 competitive nominations submitted. The honors were presented by Gov. Terry Branstad, Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds and Debi Durham, director of the Iowa Economic Development Authority.

“The Main Street Iowa program has stood the test of time since its introduction in 1985. The program continues to bring businesses, jobs, investment and vitality to our states’ traditional business districts,” said Branstad. “The Main Street Approach works, and Main Street Iowa has been a national model because we are creative, we embrace change, we demand local initiative and action, but, we hold strong to our roots as a historic preservation program.”

“Healthy, historic commercial districts are a key deciding factor for industrial and business recruitment,” said Reynolds. “Since 1986, local Main Street programs have made a significant impact on Iowa’s economy, with 4,514 new business starts and a net gain of 13,402 jobs. More than 740 building projects have been reported, with an investment in those rehabs of over $2 billion. Last year alone, the Main Street Iowa network surpassed 156,135 total documented hours of human capital invested into Iowa’s downtown revitalization efforts. This demonstrates a tremendous commitment to Iowa’s Main Streets.”

During the event, 10 communities were recognized for reaching significant benchmarks based on private dollar investments made in the purchase and revitalization of properties within their respective commercial districts. Centerville and Lansing were recognized for reaching the $1 million benchmark in the last year and Ft. Madison was honored for $2 million in local investment. Ames and Guthrie Center were recognized for achieving the $5 million level. Des Moines 6th Avenue, Chariton, Corning, State Center and Ottumwa all attained $10 million in local investment since being designated as local Main Street programs. Four communities were recognized for significant anniversaries. Osceola was recognized for 20 years of participation as a designated Main Street community. Cedar Falls, Spencer and West Des Moines were recognized for 30 year anniversaries.

Two special awards were presented as well. James Walsh received the Spirit of Main Street Award, an honor that recognizes the person, organization, community or project which best demonstrates the true meaning and spirit of “Main Street at Work.” The community of Oskaloosa was honored with a Signature Project Award for their inspiring and innovative place-making efforts in beautification, promotion and partnership.

In 1985, the Iowa Legislature adopted the National Main Street Center’s Four Point Approach to district revitalization by establishing Main Street Iowa within the agency that is now the Iowa Economic Development Authority. Since its inception, the state program and its communities have been considered examples of excellence in the national effort to revitalize historic commercial districts across the country.