Main Street El Dorado preparing for '24 re-accreditation

As Main Street El Dorado gears up for its fall and winter event season, the group is also preparing for its 2024 accreditation assessment with the state and national Main Street programs.

During an MSE board meeting Tuesday, Beth Brumley, MSE executive director, led board members in a review of community evaluation worksheets that were completed by board members on the local program (LP).

Brumley explained that Main Street Arkansas and Main Street America will later rate MSE under the coordinating programs (CPs) to determine if MSE will be designated as a Main Street affiliate or accredited program next year.

Local Main Street programs across the nation are undergoing similar evaluations, Brumley explained.

MSE is one of 103 local programs that has received a Great American Main Street Award.

MSE received the honor in 2009, alongside four other programs across the nation.

Brumley distributed the worksheets to allow MSE board members to review cumulative scores for the local program.

"When Main Street Arkansas and (Main Street America) come in, they will want to pull these back up and meet with you guys and I say 'you guys' because (Holly McDonald and Emilia Meinert, MSE executive and administrative assistant, respectively) and I will not be allowed in the room," said Brumley.

The worksheet calls for cumulative scores based on six standards, rated on a scale of 1 - 5. A score of 1 means that a standard is not being addressed and 5 indicates "outstanding achievement."

Brumley said MSE rated its lowest score, 3.8, on Standard IV -- Strategy Driven Programming.

She noted that MSE used the city's most recent economic/community development plan as a resource for the evaluation.

The community drafted an economic/community development plan in 2007 when the Union County Industrial Development Board hired TIP Strategies, Inc., an Austin, Texas-based, firm that offers economic development-planning services.

TIP Strategies spent months compiling data analysis, feedback from focus groups, public input and research into a plan that included recommendations on how El Dorado and Union County should move forward with economic development.

Two years later, the city joined with a private group and contributed $25,000 toward the cost of a contract with destination developer Roger Brooks, who, along with his team, developed a new marketing and branding strategy for the city.

El Dorado went from "South Arkansas' Original Boomtown," a nod to the city's oil boom history, to "The Festival City," which led to the development of the MAD arts and entertainment complex.

In conversations with other local Main Street programs and state and national Main Street officials, Brumley said she learned that local programs across the country scored similarly on the Strategy Driven Programming standard on the self-evaluation.

"It's difficult for local programs like us to coordinate a strategic plan with the city because the city doesn't have one that's up to date," Brumley said.

MSE's highest score, 4.5, came from Standard I - Broad-Based Community Commitment to Revitalization.

MSE posted a score of 4.3 with Standard II, Inclusive Leadership and Organizational Capacity.

It is an area in which MSE has shown some improvement in recent years, Brumley said, explaining, "That's being representative of what our community looks like, as far as diversity."

She noted that MSE assisted with Juneteenth activities earlier this year and will do the same for the Hispanic Heritage Celebration: "Mi Tierra (My Land) Fest" which is set for 5 p.m. on Sept. 30 in downtown El Dorado.

Brumley said the evaluation will also come with a community survey, which will allow the public to share ideas about what they would like to see in their local Main Street program.

"We know we're going to get answers that aren't doable, like IHOP or Chick-fil-A, but we can ask, 'What do you want to see in public art?' or 'What kind of live music do you want to see that we're not doing?'" Brumley said.

She also said she learned that MSE's accreditation status will not affect its eligibility to apply for and receive grants, such as the annual Downtown Revitalization Grant that is awarded by the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program.

The funds are used, in part, for MSE's mini-grant program, which assists business/property owners within the Main Street footprint with exterior and interior improvement projects, including painting, lighting, flooring, window treatments, awnings, etc.

With investments from property owners and MSE, including mini-grants that were awarded last year, Brumley said several new awnings, mostly along Main Street, are expected to be installed downtown by the time MusicFest XXXV rolls around on Oct. 6 and 7.

The annual festival is MSE's flagship event and largest fundraiser.

The event will be held on the Union County Courthouse Square with live music, food and craft vendors, attractions and more.

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