Community Development Specialist, Sheila Grant, visits Milo downtown businesses.November 13, 2006 - TRC The economic benefits of downtown revitalization are well documented. Local residents enjoy better shopping close to home. They have more cultural and social activities to choose from, as do their children. Housing values stabilize, or even improve. Retail business owners get an improved image, increased sales and more customer traffic, as do professionals who operate from downtown offices. The overall pride of place and historical awareness rises when downtowns are reenergized. With all that in mind, Community Development Specialist Sheila Grant of the Piscataquis County Economic Development Council (PCEDC) recently conducted door-to-door visits with the downtown business owners and managers of Milo. “I was able to meet with 15 businesses, and I was pleased that so many owners were willing to take time to share their ideas and concerns with me,” Grant said. “The results are exciting, as everyone had wonderful ideas and the interviews revealed many common goals that we can work on together.” The purpose of the visits had been exactly that, Grant said. “By identifying those issues that concern the majority of downtown business owners, we hope to create some projects that will have widespread support within the Milo community. Hopefully, a few successful projects that make a visible difference to the downtown will encourage residents to form their own downtown revitalization committee and move forward with a viable revitalization effort.” The appearance of the downtown was a leading concern, eliciting 21 comments and ideas. Improvements to the corner of Elm and Main streets were high on many lists, and may be a potential project once the Maine Department of Transportation completes its work next summer. Also scoring high were improvements to some of the town’s older buildings and to the bridge. Another concern that came up in most of the conversations was “something for kids and teens to do.” “Most of the business owners felt badly for children and teens who don’t really have a lot of entertainment options locally,” Grant said. “Many supported the idea of creating a local park of some sort. Ideas included a playground, a pool and a BMX/skateboard facility.” Most of the downtown business owners felt that the town already had some good things going for it. At the head of that list were the region’s natural resources, and the visitors drawn to the region for outdoor recreation. Improvements to the waterfront, a longer river walk and swimming access were all suggested to build on those “Three River” assets. Recent LaGrange road improvements and low local housing costs were seen as a plus, as well. Milo could become a bedroom community of Bangor, a retirement community or an artistic community drawing creative folks with a love of fixer-upper homes to the region, some said. Many business owners were pleased at the façade improvement work already done by many in the downtown area, with the new businesses that have already added energy to the town, with the active civic organizations in town and with the seasonal decorative flags decking out Main Street. “The economy, of course, was the main concern,” Grant said. “People want to see the empty storefronts filled. They want more diverse shopping opportunities and more employment brought to the area. They also want a dentist, an eye doctor and a veterinarian available locally.” Grant said that there was no shortage of exciting ideas about what sort of businesses to bring to the downtown, and to the Eastern Piscataquis Business Park when it opens. “People had given this a lot of thought and had interesting suggestions,” she said. “The PCEDC office will be following up on many of these suggestions, and we will be available to provide advice and technical assistance as the town goes forward with some of their downtown revitalization projects.” For more information about this release or the Piscataquis County Economic Development Council, contact: Sheila Grant, Community Development SpecialistPiscataquis County Economic Development Council50 Mayo StreetDover-Foxcroft, Maine 04426(207) 564-3638Email: email@example.comNOTE - This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of the TRC Alliance Team.