ELKINS - The city of Elkins is on its way to becoming a National Main Street-designated town with the appointment of Karen Carper as the executive director of Elkins ON TRAC.
Carper said a National Main Street official came to Elkins in January to offer training, which 30 residents attended. With Carper's appointment - she began her new duties Monday - ON TRAC is now eligible to apply for Main Street status.
"This is a very big step in the right direction," Carper said. "Getting to this point has taken lots of work, and the final big step was the hiring of an executive director."
Carper said with the application for Main Street designation, Elkins ON TRAC is immediately eligible for services from National Main Street, including unlimited design services and support.
"If we have a project in downtown Elkins, National Main Street has an o- staff architect to draw up designs," Carper said. "You can take this to grant funders. It is a great service."
Other benefits include providing both the ability to network and a tracking service.
"You can clearly define where your community is and where it is going," Carper said. "It puts us on a national level where we can compare to other cities. It also makes us eligible for other grants."
Carper said many travelers look for the Main Street designation in places they visit.
"They want to have that type of designation so they know they will have a certain type of experience when traveling to a Main Street town," Carper said.
Carper said the purpose of ON TRAC is to promote downtown areas as a destination.
"It assures they are a warm and welcoming place for families to visit and have fun," Carper said.
In 2011, Carper joined ON TRAC as a member and volunteer. She took over as chairperson of the promotions committee and then became the liaison and Vista Volunteer from February 2012 to 2014.
"Part of our goal is to make the most of what we have," Carper said. "Our future goal is to have a preservation-based economic development. We want to repurpose the things we have and make it part of the present time."
Carper said downtown Elkins has significant value to build on.
"We have such a diversity of businesses in our downtown area," Carper said. "We have four banks, other financial institutions, doctors, dentists, lawyers, government agencies, dining, shopping and three churches. This offers a breadth of opportunities."
Carper said Elkins already is designated as a Certified Art Community and is listed as one of the Best Small Towns in the USA.
"We are working to support and retain downtown businesses," Carper said. "There are several new businesses downtown and we are working to improve the downtown. It is the heart of our community."
Carper said she is honored to be selected as the executive director of ON TRAC.
"I feel really excited for the future possibilities," she said. "The board of directors that brought us to this point are very dedicated and hard-working."
Some of the benefits of a Main Street designation for local residents and consumers include enhanced marketplace, sense of pride in downtown, more social and cultural activities, opportunities to keep kids in town, sense of hometown community, historical awareness and home value increases.
Activities that ON TRAC has brought to the Elkins downtown include Building Blocks for Business, planting flowers, downtown decorations and holiday lighting.
Carper said a business class at Davis & Elkins College is helping with a marketing survey by collecting data to have a baseline starting point.
"This will give us the ability to report our findings on a quarterly basis and to track the effectiveness of the program."
The organization committee of ON TRAC meets the second and fourth Mondays at the Darden House, located at 421 Davis Ave. Additional information about ON TRAC and the Main Street Project is available by calling 304-704-6911 or online at downtownelkins.com