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"Historic Port Clinton Organizatin Developing Community-Wide Support"

Question: How many people does it take to revitalize the economy of a struggling downtown area? Answer: It takes everybody!

When the city administration and local business leaders in Port Clinton went looking for a model of economic revitalization for their downtown district, they quickly found the National and Ohio "Main Street" programs, which provide technical expertise and support to communities looking to rebuild economically. One of the main tenets of this program is to involve everyone in the community, asking each to do their own small part. This philosophy sounded pretty good to the few people who traditionally took on most of the projects in Port Clinton. Because "Main Street" is an entire program, rather than a single project, it requires sustained effort over a long period. If only a few people drive the program, burnout will occur, important people whose support is needed won't understand the process, and the program will fail.

Thus, the Board of Directors of the year-old "Historic Port Clinton" (HPC) organization is looking to affiliate with the Ohio Main Street Program. During this early phase the Board and its various committees have accomplished many important goals, including saving both the traditional Memorial Day weekend Walleye Festival and the Lighthouse Keeper's Boathouse. They have built a thriving organization with many members, donors, and volunteers working on everything from an inventory of the downtown buildings, to organizing downtown events, to educating the public about the need to invest in our central business district.

The education process has been in full swing from the very beginning. Members have appeared on the public access channel on the program "Now You Decide", and the local newspapers have written a number of articles regarding the projects being coordinated. Presentations have been made to various non-profit organizations, as well as City Council. HPC has maintained information booths at local events, where it has been marketing some of their products, such as "PC" bumper stickers, "HPC" T-shirts, drink coasters, and mouse pads. So if you're driving around and see the "PC" on a car's bumper, now you'll know from whence it came.

When the word started to get out that a new organization had been formed, we heard plenty of comments like "We don't need another committee! We've got enough of them already." After spending the past year working to educate the local citizenry and business community that our goals are to preserve our heritage and revitalize downtown, however, there has been a significant change in how we are viewed. It became more and more clear that HPC is not just another committee!

HPC has been fortunate to be embraced by so many business-people who could see the potential that comes from being a "Main Street" community. The "National Main Street" program began in 1977, created by the National Trust for Historic Preservation to help provide aid to America's deteriorating cities and communities. They formed state organizations to oversee the communities within their individual states. This program has resulted in stopping the decline of many cities over the years, and has created more jobs in those communities through new businesses. The number of vacant buildings decreased, and downtowns became vibrant and energized. We want to accomplish that same result here in Port Clinton.

Port Clinton's great strength has always been its people, and this has been borne out in HPC's first year, with many individuals and organizations stepping up to donate their time and talents to help make it all come together. People have stepped forward and joined the organization's various committees. In addition to the four standing committees typical of a Main Street organization, Design, Economic Restructuring, Membership/Fundraising, and Promotion, ad-hoc committees like the "Walleye Festival" and the "Perch, Peach and Polka Festival" have arisen to take on specific tasks. Both of these events celebrate Port Clinton's unique heritage, and our relationship with Lake Erie, and they bring local citizens as well as visitors to the downtown. That is a key component of what "Main Street" programs provide, bringing people downtown, supporting local businesses.

Further, the Harry B. Stensen Memorial Trust has donated $10,000 towards the operation of Historic Port Clinton, showing that those individuals who manage the Trust believe Mr. Stensen would have felt that this organization is very worthwhile.

To be accepted into the Main Street program, a city must show community-wide support for implementing the program. The support can't just be by the business community alone, but must have the support of the local government. The Program evaluators want to insure that the support is a public/private partnership. Being considered for acceptance requires a letter of resolution from the City Administration and from the City Council. We are happy to announce that the Administration happily provided a resolution of support, and, as we speak, Council has written a resolution of support (and partial funding) that is currently moving through the 3-reading process. Support was also shown by the editors of the News Herald (the local daily newspaper), as they endorsed Historic Port Clinton's request to City Council for partial funding.

The bottom line is that the community is stepping up to the plate, and new members are coming on board every day to help turn the downtown area of the City of Port Clinton into a live, energetic and revitalized place. We see restored interest in the downtown by businesses considering locating here. While this national program does not promise change overnight; because it is, in fact, a long and incremental process, it does provide the impetus for positive change. We have started that journey, and we welcome everyone to join us. If you want to learn more about Historic Port Clinton, or want to consider membership, please call our Membership Chairperson, Cathy Allen at (419) 732-1770, or e-mail Cathy at cathy718@earthlink.net. Come and have some fun with the rest of us!


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