Benny Finch: Main Street Status Downtown Committee’s ‘Number One Priority’

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Benny Finch, chairman of the Henderson-Vance Downtown Development Commission, was on Wednesday’s edition of WIZS’ Town Talk program to discuss the commission’s current “number one priority,” the designation of Downtown Henderson and the City of Henderson as both a North Carolina and a National Main Street Program.

A part of the Main Street Program from the mid-1980s until approximately 2010, Finch said that a lapse in the process cost the downtown area the distinction. “Once there is a lapse, you have to complete the preparatory work, applications and requirements all over again.”

According to Finch, the benefits provided to a Main Street community are well worth the time that the commission is currently putting into completing the re-certification process.

One of the more time-consuming projects, according to Finch, is Main Street’s requirement of a detailed inventory, including photos, of each building in downtown Henderson. Finch said the commission is currently working on the best way to successfully complete that requirement.

“It is a three-year [overall] process and we are more than halfway there,” Finch said. “We expect to successfully complete all requirements by 2020. This will get us back into the Main Street Program which provides design expertise, grant expertise and networking opportunities.”

To facilitate the process, Finch said the director of the State Main Street Program was invited to Henderson to provide a status report on the commission’s progress. “We are a little behind, but we are going to catch up and get it done,” said Finch.

Beyond simple bragging rights, the grants and opportunities provided by the Main Street designation help with the business growth and vitality of an area. “When you are interested in relocating to a new city, you often check out the downtown area to get an idea of the health of the community,” said Finch.

The success of McGregor Hall and the promise of the still-in-the-works Breckenridge Pavilion all add to the vitality of the downtown area and will ultimately help attract businesses, according to Finch.

“Once we become designated as a Main Street Program, we can increase our focus on business growth. Phase one is to be a Main Street City to get state and federal advantages and then grow from there.”

One on-going source of contention and an area that will have to be addressed before Main Street status is granted, is the requirement of a full-time director’s position. For the past several years, the director’s position has been funded on a part-time basis only.

“Our direction right now is looking at a full-time director funded by the City,” Finch said. The director’s salary has previously been paid by a combination of City and County funds.

“I have surveyed over 60 Main Streets across NC – a third are private, non-profits, a third are funded by the city and a third are a combination of funding,” said Finch. “There is no specific funding requirement other than the position be full-time when the process is complete.”

Finch said progress is being made in better establishing the director’s position and the downtown development office. “At one time, the director was housed inside the Chamber of Commerce building. It now has an office of its own in the fire station building. That gives us a presence and a home-base to work from.”

Getting all of the requirements completed for Main Street accreditation, including the change in director status, is at the forefront of Finch’s mind. “I want to be out front with the Main Street committee when we take the picture at the fire station. I want Henderson to be recognized in the region and across the state as a great Main Street City.”

To hear the interview with Benny Finch in its entirety, please click here.

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