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Revitalizing Main Streets: How Downtown Improvement Grants are Empowering Small Businesses



Rogersville and Elizabethton recently took advantage of grant funds through the Tennessee Department of Economic & Community Development to improve and revitalize 14 properties in their Main Street districts. Utilizing Downtown Improvement Grants, or DIG funds, which can be utilized for improvements and execution of an effective design plan for building facades, wayfinding signage, courtyard improvements, gateways, streetscapes, lighting and sound, and electric vehicle charging, both Rogersville and Elizabethton have seen small businesses empowered.


These grant funds are ideally suited to empower a small business in a downtown community such as Rogersville or Elizabethton, to say nothing of the many other communities across Northeast Tennessee. DIG funds contribute to the restoration of the unique character of our rural main street communities, and the overall improvements spur economic development by attracting entrepreneurs and tourists alike to the downtown area.  

In Rogersville, grant recipients included Hale Springs Inn, Rogersville Depot, St. Mark Church, Hollywood Hillbilly, Olde Towne Emporium, Of One Accord, and East TN Real Estate & Appraisal. In total, seven buildings in Rogersville were improved utilizing $150,000 in grant funding while leveraging $47,500 in investment from local business owners.


The DIG funding also made it possible for two new businesses to open on Main Street, in one of the first buildings visitors see when they enter Rogersville’s historic downtown. East TN Real Estate & Appraisal opened in April and employs five people, and through their façade improvements were able to attract a new business, Slices of Jersey Pizza, which opened in August. Nancy Barker, with Rogersville/Hawkins County Chamber of Commerce shared that with these new businesses, ten new jobs have been added to the Rogersville Main Street District and also added that "the revitalization has encouraged surrounding owners to fix up their building which has helped to fill those empty buildings with businesses for a more vibrant downtown."


Elizabethton boasts a similar number of DIG projects and impact. All told a total of six projects were funded throughout Elizabethton. They included Peddler's Cart, Riverside Taphouse, The Coffee Company, The Bonnie Kate Theatre, Building 518, and Cannon's Finer Furnishings. All told, $141, 000 in grant funds were utilized to improve properties, and $48,700 in local dollars were invested by property owners.


Elizabethton paired these grant funds and private investment with their city council funded facade program, which enabled property owners to push projects further than they may have otherwise been able to do. Logan Engle, Assistant City Manager, explained that, "Attractive buildings with vibrant businesses in them help to make our downtown a regional tourism destination. We are excited to receive DIG once again and are looking forward to seeing how the program can continue to impact our downtown community.”


For more information on the Tennessee Department of Economic & Community Development DIG program, visit here.


For questions about how to how the FTDD can help you on your DIG project, please contact Lance Lowery, llowery@ftdd.org or Geneva King, gking@ftdd.org


For questions about this or other FTDD news, please contact Mark Stevans, mstevans@ftdd.org.


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