— Deirdre Robertson, Executive Director – FrostburgFirst

One of the best parts of my job as Main Street Manager is bragging about Frostburg – After all, it’s just cooler here!

 

Recently, I had the opportunity to testify before the Maryland State Senate Health and Human Services Subcommittee in Annapolis regarding funding for the Maryland Main Street Improvement Program.

This program supports the development and revitalization of business districts – this includes both operating and capital projects such as, but not limited to:

  • Operating costs associated with managing the Main Street business district and providing  technical assistance to businesses
  • Facade and property improvements
  • Consultant/professional services for market analysis and business retention and recruitment strategies
  • Infrastructure improvements such as wayfinding signage, street banners, bike racks, and benches
  • Consultant/professional services for architectural and engineering design studies for redevelopment projects
  • Promotional materials and advertising to attract consumers as well as new businesses

How does this affect Frostburg? The Main Street Improvement Program funds make it possible for Maryland Main Street Communities to access grant funding specifically set aside for operations.

It’s often easier to find funding for specific projects, festivals or events, or even for historic preservation and development. Finding funds that support the operations of a Main Street Program are always a challenge, and are always the most needed. The ability to apply for grant funding through the MD Department of Housing and Community Development’s Main Street Improvement Program is of tremendous benefit to FrostburgFirst and its members, most recently helping to fund projects like our transition to 501(c)3 tax-exempt status, the current Pop-Up Frostburg program, and our upcoming downtown signage project.

Our ability to leverage funding from the Main Street Improvement Program makes it possible to partner in and develop signature events like the nationally recognized Storybook Holiday, Pig Out in the Park BBQ Festival, and regular Arts Walk events to draw visitors and new residents.  Our program works closely with our county tourism department to highlight the area’s attractions, including the Great Allegheny Passage, the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad, and the natural beauty of Western Maryland. The presence of a designated Main Street Maryland program in our community helps to attract new businesses and sustain and expand existing businesses and art enterprises. According to the Main Street Maryland Economic Impact and Investment report, since Frostburg’s 2001 designation, our program has resulted in $1.9 million in 101 private investment projects, $11 million in 26 public improvement projects, 90 new businesses, 313 jobs created, 117,397 volunteer hours valued at $2.9 million.

 

Community engagement is central to our Main Street Program. To ensure our programs and activities align with the vision, priorities, and needs of our community, we recruit members from across a diverse set of stakeholders, including small business owners, local organizations, Frostburg State University and Allegany College of Maryland, local artists, and interested community members. Frostburg benefits from a thriving small business community with several multi-generational businesses, and our program leverages Main Street Improvement Program funds to support their exposure and growth, including learning opportunities and marketing and promotions such as brochures, social media, networking events, and monthly events to draw visitors and locals alike to our downtown.

From left: Deirdre Robertson (FrostburgFirst Executive Director), Alicia Jones-McCloud (Ellicott City Partnership Director), MD Secretary of Housing & Community Development Kenneth C. Holt, Katie Clendaniel (Downtown Cambridge Executive Director), and Nick Staigerwalk (Dundalk Renaissance Director).

The opportunity to share our Main Street Program’s story with MD Secretary of Housing and Community Development Kenneth C. Holt, Senator Melony G. Griffith and the Subcommittee is an experience I will value throughout my career. Being able to share not only the projects that our program has accomplished but the incredible level of support from our partner organizations like Frostburg State University, the City of Frostburg, the Foundation for Frostburg, and all our FrostburgFirst members just demonstrated how special Frostburg is. Everyone present enjoyed hearing how Frostburg businesses, organizations, and community members responded to the fire on Main Street last February, and how the entire city throws itself into the spirit for events like Storybook Holiday and our annual Arts Walk.

A bit of local history at the State Capitol!

I would also like to extend a thank you to Mountain City Traditional Arts, Wholesome Harvest Co-op, Mountain City Coffeehouse & Creamery, Mayor W. Robert Flanigan, Community Development Director L.J. Bennett and Allegany County Tourism for providing letters of support on short notice. These letters were submitted to the Subcommittee with letters of support from around the state sharing experiences with Maryland Main Street Programs.

Support from our members and community means so much to our Main Street Program. If you are interested in sharing your thoughts on the impact FrostburgFirst has in our community, want to become involved in our activities and events, or just want to share your feedback please email us at frostburgfirst@gmail.