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Hotchkiss takes first step toward Main St. program

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The Town of Hotchkiss has lent its support to the Hotchkiss Community Chamber of Commerce as that organization seeks to become an affiliate with the DOLA-managed Colorado Main Street Program. The town sent a letter officially requesting affiliate status to DOLA last week. The effort has been spearheaded by the chamber, with a special subcommittee formed to work on this multi-year project.

The Main Street program seeks to rejuvenate downtowns as well as preserve historic integrity of towns. Local governments and supporting organizations develop and implement strategies, instead of a top-down approach to economic growth. Chamber representatives presented to town trustees documentation on the program that describes it as one that "advocates a return to community self-reliance, local empowerment, and the rebuilding of central business districts based on their assets, unique architecture, personal service, local ownership and entrepreneurship, and a sense of community."

"This is a big deal for Hotchkiss," said Mayor Wendell Koontz at the Feb. 9 council meeting, where chamber representatives requested the Town to apply for the program.

"What is this going to cost us?" asked Trustee Jim Roberts.

"What is it going to cost us if we don't do this?" replied Kim Shay with Ace Gambles of Hotchkiss and a chamber member. "This is an investment in the community."

Elyse Ackerman with DOLA told the council that the bulk of the cost right now is in volunteer time and support. The affiliate stage of the program is the beginning process where stakeholders - in this case the chamber, Town, and downtown group - will work together to determine if there is sufficient interest, volunteers and other resources to move forward. In his letter to DOLA, Mayor Koontz wrote that one of the immediate goals is to figure out how to bring the community together to revitalize the downtown. Other stakeholders that have been identified include the schools, civic organizations, ag producers and residents.

Both the chamber and the town identified economic development and downtown revitalization as one of the top goals to work towards as a Main Street community. The application highlights the community's desire to work on business retention and expansion, business training and resources as areas they want to work on. Organizers say they hope to reinvigorate the area, attract more tourists and make Hotchkiss a more attractive locale for people to visit, live and work.

If the community is successful in the affiliate stage, they can apply to become a Main Street Candidate, which organizers hope to do later this year.

Other Main Street communities in Colorado include Steamboat Springs, Lyons, Brush, Granby, Rifle, Meeker, Montrose, Buena Vista, and several others. Shay commented on how the other towns who've gone through this process are bustling and thriving.

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