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By Echo Menges
The Missouri Main Street push in Milan continues to build community support. On Tuesday, May 10, approximately 40 community members from throughout Sullivan County gathered at the Milan Community Center to participate in a Missouri Main Street driven Town Hall meeting.
The meeting was led by Ben White, MO Main Street Program Outreach Specialist, with support from Keith Winge, MO Main Street Community Development Director.
The meeting began with introductions of everyone in the room. The group had varying reasons for attending with one overarching theme – to support community betterment and promote the Main Street push.
“I grew up and graduated here. I left here and went to college and worked around for a while and I’ve been back ever since. I’d like to see it go back to the way I saw it in my high school years,” Melissa VanDusseldorp said during her introduction.
“I lived here for my whole life, 52 years. I work at Smithfield. I’m kind of here on behalf of them and want to see if there’s anything we can do to help at some point in time,” said David Oder during his introduction.
“I’m the Shelter Insurance Agent here in town. I’ve lived here most of my life, traveled around a little bit. It would be nice to see the area with my business in it – there are some other businesses in it but so many that are vacant right now. It would just be nice to see some of that revitalized,” Lee VanDusseldorp said during his introduction.
“I’m actually a new resident. I’ve lived here about eight months. I anxious to see what you guys do. There’s not a lot to do for fun. That’s why I’m here. We need some fun,” Taylor Shuler said during her introduction.
“I’ve been here seven months. I think I’m the newest here. We came up with Simmons Foods. We’re looking to get more involved in the community as a plant. My wife Kristen and I, we’re looking at business opportunities here as well,” Carter Pearce said during his introduction.
“I’m interested in the revitalization of downtown, and not just downtown but the whole community,” said Jill Gordy.
“I’m not a Milan resident. I’m a Sullivan County resident interested in seeing how the program works. I think it’s important for our small communities to survive and have a base and positives like this for downtown improvement is probably where it starts,” said Seth Oaks.
“I’m a lifelong resident. I live in Milan. I work in Milan. I have a building in Milan. And so, I’m here for Milan,” said Dana Fowler during her introduction.
After all of the introductions were made, White went to work explaining the process of the MO Main Street program and the goal of the meeting.
“We’re going to take all the information that you come up where here. We just launched a survey. We’re going to take the information from the survey. We’re going to pull some demographic information. And, we’re really going to talk about strategies – where we want to focus our efforts for downtown. We have limited time. We have limited resources. We all have jobs. We have families. We have different things that we’re doing here. So, let’s pinpoint what are some of the things that the community wants to see in their downtown,” Ben White told the crowd. “We’re not only going to come up with those ideas, we’re going to figure out how to evolve and implement those ideas.”
White led the attendees through a realm of possibility by talking about and showing a myriad of options to help improve the downtown district including things like creating inviting spaces people will want to visit, and emphasizing the importance of telling the community’s story.
After White’s presentation, the attendees broke into four groups and worked to develop ideas to push the project forward. The groups focused on design, promotion, organization and economic vitality – each taking on a different area. Each group was led by a community member helping with the Main Street effort. The efforts put in during the May Town Hall and community survey will eventually be released by the MO Main Street team as they continue to help Milan realize communal goals. The Milan Standard will publish any information shared with us to further assist in the revitalization effort.