Seymour Main Street, education coalition provide updates

Seymour Main Street and the Jackson County Education Coalition continue to benefit from the support of the Seymour Redevelopment Commission.

Bri Roll, executive director of Seymour Main Street, said the partnership has been ongoing for at least 11 years.

Dan Davis, chief executive officer of the Jackson County Education Coalition, said grant dollars provided over the last six years have benefited work at the Jackson County Learning Center and with the Jackson County Industrial Development Corp. Workforce Partnership.

The annual funding from the commission is $200,000 for Seymour Main Street and $245,000 for the education coalition.

Roll and Davis gave updates during Monday’s commission meeting in the council chambers at Seymour City Hall.

Roll shared some accomplishments from 2021, including gaining 19 new businesses in the downtown and losing four for a positive of 15.

“I’m really excited that we had four businesses relocate, but they all chose to relocate to new locations still within the downtown,” she said. “We continue to see a lot of incoming excitement and a nice variety of business types.”

With the organization’s grant cycle, it awarded five buildout projects, including four that have activated or a project is ongoing but building will be activated.

“This took dormant spaces and put life back into them,” Roll said.

Also with the grants, Seymour Main Street helped with two roof projects, two awnings, three signs, three rental assistance and one down payment assistance to help purchase a building.

“So all in all, very exciting year for 2021, and 2022, we already have 10 applicants, so that program continues to be very well utilized and we’re getting a lot of activity,” Roll said. “We’re very excited to see the applications that have come through. A couple of those are buildouts. We’ve got one applicant that wants to covert the second story to residential, a rental assistance, two signs, an awning, a roof and a façade.”

The commission’s partnership also allowed the organization to fund a new mural project on the west-facing wall on the Artistic Impressions building at Second and Chestnut streets. It’s a collage of historic elements from Seymour.

Moving forward this year, Roll said Seymour Main Street will update its scoring metric for grants.

“We do review those applications, and we do have a lot of conversations around the validity of the project and if we want to support it,” she said. “We’re looking to really get strategic about what we’re supporting and how it’s going to really make an impact on the downtown.”

One project this year is seeking requests for proposal for a designed streetscape and having that completed within the year.

“What we found as an organization is we don’t have a clear vision what we want the downtown to look like in 10 years, what is the brand of our downtown,” Roll said. “We can replace benches and paint a mural, but when it comes to the large fabric of the downtown, how do we know what pattern we’re using? It’s a question that comes up a lot, and we decided that we need a seamstress. We need that person to show us exactly what we’re working toward.”

In her next update in six months, Roll said she will share how that project is going.

“That will also assist us when it comes to strategically awarding funds because then we’ll have a clear idea of ‘Is that project going to fit the vision?’ or further, ‘Our grant projects or our applications, do we provide them more the design outline, this is your guidance of what we want to fund because this is the return on the investment we want to see?’” she said.

“I think it’s going to make a dramatic impact on how we’re funding projects and the cohesiveness of that downtown, how we see that pay off,” she said.

Davis shared a three-part report for the commission members to review at their leisure.

It contains a two-page memo from Davis about the education coalition and learning center, a report from Jackie Hill about the work she and Jody Deckard do through JCIDC and an annual report from learning center Director Amy Heideman.

Commission President Mark Dennis said a few years ago, Cummins Inc. provided the board with a fair amount of money to free up some debt service it was going to have in the future, and the commission chose to use that to help fund operations of the education coalition so it could get its footing.

When the original cycle is over, Dennis said the commission will have to look at what its continued involvement is and from where the coalition will get its budget.