Education coalition, Main Street continue to make impact


Area residents benefited from the Jackson County Learning Center in various ways in 2023, and that will continue in 2024.

Various programs helped businesses in downtown Seymour last year, and work will be done to fill vacant buildings and renovate others this year.

Officials with the Jackson County Education Coalition and Seymour Main Street recently provided annual updates to the Seymour Redevelopment Commission, which gives more than $200,000 in funding to each organization each year.

Dan Davis, chief executive officer of the education coalition, shared reports on the coalition, learning center and work that’s contracted with Jackson County Industrial Development Corp.’s workforce partnership. Jim Plump and Jackie Hill with JCIDC also were at the meeting.

“We truly appreciate the financial help that you guys are able to give us,” Davis told the commission.

In 2023, the learning center had more than 6,000 visitors, 82% of whom were enrolled in some sort of classes.

“Something that I think the three of us are really excited about is the most recent addition to the learning center being the new Vincennes (University) industrial maintenance training program,” Davis said.

The redevelopment commission helped fund that through the Regional Economic Acceleration and Development Initiative project that brought the university to the learning center.

“They’ve had two classes graduate from there since opening about mid-November,” Davis said. “That included six local employees in electrical training and then 10 in mechanical. They should be wrapping up two more classes here in the next two or three weeks. Then they will be moving on to the next set of cohorts on the electrical and mechanical, probably looking at sometime in April. We are really excited about that.”

Bri Roll, executive director of Seymour Main Street, first shared facts and figures from 2023.

She said the grant and loan program awarded 19 projects. The buildout program, which goes toward building renovations, continues to take up the lion’s share of the funding awards at nearly 84%.

“The projects that we awarded translated to $2.7 million in private investment, so that return on investment is huge,” Roll said. “Some of those projects haven’t finished. Some of the numbers were projections, but it should be pretty substantial for 2023, and some of those funds are going to be captured in 2024 just due to project completion dates. … Most of the projects are business-specific.”

Last year, Seymour Main Street hosted 14 signature events and reached more than 200 businesses and sponsors.

The commission’s support also allowed Roll and executive assistant Shaney Smith to receive further education, certificates and leadership opportunities; strategic planning initiatives to continue; fundraising to be established; and expansion of the streetscape project.

For 2024, Roll highlighted some projects and units that will be occupied early in the year.

The building at 200 W. Second St. was purchased in late 2023, and the first phase of replacing windows is expected to start soon.

“That will just steamroll from there,” Roll said.

The former Masonic Temple building at 200 and 212 W. Second St. was purchased at the end of January.

“We expect a lot of that façade enhancement in 2024, so going back to its historic roots and then getting the second unit that’s unoccupied ready for a commercial tenant,” Roll said.

She also said Chapel Church is working hard to get the building at 119 W. Second St. fully functional, The Copper Top event venue at 100 St. Louis Ave. is opening soon, Direct Mortgage is in the process of opening along West Tipton Street in the Larrison’s building and a tenant has been identified for the building at 110 W. Second St. and will be moving in in the spring.

Overall in the downtown, Roll said there are 171 buildings with a combined 234 commercial units, 31 vacancies and 18 dormancies.

Currently, she said the vacancy rate is 85.89%, but that will move to 88% with the previously mentioned projects, while the dormancy rate, meaning a building that has no tenant, will drop from 10.5% to 7.6%.

Seymour Main Street was able to bid at a tax sale for the buildings at 106 and 108 N. Chestnut St. that previously housed Don’s Dugout.

“Don’s Dugout has a lot of issues with its title, so it’s not a very attractive investment for a project developer because that title has a lot of red flags, so Main Street thought it was in the best interest to preserve those properties by bidding at tax sale,” Roll said.

If Main Street obtains ownership, which Roll said she hopes is by October, the course of action will be to issue a request for proposal, accept offers from private investors and work with them to get the buildings structurally sound and active.

Commission member Bonnye Good said the façade is unique, and when the building was in better shape, it was ranked as one of the more interesting buildings in the downtown.

“It’s just rated now as contributing,” Roll said. “If we do have significant change in some of our downtown buildings, we can ask (state officials) to come reassess the downtown historic district and rerate the buildings, so it could be notable versus contributing, but right now, it’s in contributing status due to the blight.”

Good said if it has the potential to be at notable status, that would be fantastic.

“Absolutely. We are keeping our fingers crossed that everything goes well and we take possession,” Roll said.

She concluded by thanking the commission for its continued partnership.

“I think that everything that I touched on today shows that there’s a high return on your investment,” Roll said. “We’re seeing a lot of development and growth in the downtown, and we’re still kind of riding this great wave of energy with local support.”

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