In what was described as a restructuring of the Kansas Department of Commerce last fall, state funding of Kansas Main Street program was cut off. Without warning, 25 communities across the state were left to move forward without the assistance of a coordinating office.
The acting director of the National Trust Main Street Center at the time said Kansas Main Street was "summarily hanged." Valecia Crisafulli said the commerce department "ignored overwhelming evidence -- $557 million reinvested in Kansas downtowns over nearly three decades, 3,678 new businesses created and 8,518 new jobs."
It isn't as if the state was funding all that reinvestment. Kansas Main Street offered its members technical guidance, training and zero-interest matching loans through its Incentives Without Walls program. But Topeka's commitment to budget cuts and starving state government meant even highly successful programs needed to go away.
Funny thing about successful programs, however. They don't go away. It simply isn't in their DNA.
And so the local Main Street organizations are attempting to restart the state office -- this time without any state government involvement. The Main Street communities are in the process of resurrecting Kansas Main Street as a private entity. Articles of incorporation have been approved, bylaws are being formed and membership levels are being established.
"Everyone has been really supportive, and not one community has said, 'We don't want to continue this,' " said Kera Nuckolls, executive director of Discover Phillipsburg Main Street.
Local Main Street groups understood that since most of the investments came from local sources, the state government's departure would not affect their lending capabilities that significantly. And perhaps this is one of the few funding cuts coming from Topeka that won't end up harming residents who need it most.
But it is to the local groups' credit that they've identified a need -- and now are working on a solution. We salute the Main Street groups for keeping a good thing going in their communities. In northwest Kansas, that includes the Phillipsburg organization as well as the Russell Main Street group. Good luck working through the roadblock offered by the Kansas Department of Commerce.
Editorial by Patrick Lowry