Berlin Among 10 Semi-Finalists In Running For National Award

BERLIN – The town has added yet another accolade to its growing list of achievements with its selection as a semi-finalist for the Great American Main Street Award.

Berlin is one of 10 towns named as semi-finalists for the award, which is offered each year by the National Main Street Center, which operates the Main Street America program. Three winners will be named in May of 2017.

“This is the best award Main Street can win,” said Ivy Wells, the town’s economic development director. “It’s not a voting contest. It’s judged by the people at Main Street America.”

The 10 towns making it to the final round of competition for the 2017 award include Berlin as well as Cedar Rapids, Ia., Chillicothe, Mo., Columbus, Ga., Covington, Ky., Goldsboro, N.C., Los Alamos, N.M., New Orleans, La., Wausau, Wis. and West Chester, Pa.

“We are the smallest town but there are three winners,” Wells said.

She says that while the town faces some stiff competition, semi-finalists from one year often go on to win the award in the future.

“This is the first time we’ve applied,” she said.

Wells, who spent several months working on the application, said state officials encouraged municipalities to apply. Though the town has been following the Main Street Program guidelines since 2008, Wells said Berlin’s success in the last two years particularly prompted her to apply now.

“I have a waiting list of businesses that want to open up here,” she said.
Wells said the town’s busy downtown, its well-maintained historic buildings and its devoted volunteers were all things she included in the town’s application.

“In 2015, we clocked nearly 2,400 volunteer hours and welcomed 11 new businesses,” Wells said. “We also earned a number of accolades, including being listed as one of Southern Living Magazine’s 2016 South’s Best Small Towns and one of Esquire’s Top 50 Coolest Small Towns in America and so far 2016 has us even stronger than ever.”

Of course, the other municipalities nominated for the award have impressive stats as well. In all, this year’s semi-finalists have generated almost a billion dollars in public and private reinvestment, while creating 5,679 new jobs, opening 1,085 new businesses, rehabbing 1,359 buildings and clocking over 133,000 volunteer hours.

“This year’s winners are truly at the forefront of commercial district revitalization,” said Patrice Frey, president and CEO of the National Main Street Center. “They are a testament to the power of the Main Street Approach, and the great potential of downtown districts in cities and towns across the country.”

Wells says that whether the town wins the award in May or not, being named a semi-finalist is a well-deserved reward for its recent efforts.

“It’s recognition for everything we’ve done since becoming a Main Street community in 2008,” she said. “It culminated into this achievement.”

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

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Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.