At the 14th annual Maine Downtown Conference they’re celebrating revitalization and more than 200 people from 65 communities joined in.
“We’re celebrating downtown and downtown is the place. Places to age, places to thrive and places to grow and be an entrepreneur,” said Lorain Francis, Senior Program Director at the Maine Downtown Center.
One program being touted here is “Healthy Maine Streets” an initiative aimed at making downtowns in maine healthier. It’s a federally funded project through a $1.64 million Community Transformation Grant from the national Centers for Disease Control. It’s a two-pronged approach focusing on work site wellness within small businesses and healthier downtowns overall.
213 businesses from 19 communities in Maine are taking part including in Waterville where businesses are working to integrate things like access to healthy food and beverage and increased physical activity into their downtowns.
“They’re wearing pedometers and trying to track their steps, they’re offering fruits and vegetables at their meetings instead of bagels and donuts and they’re hanging up the Maine state tobacco laws in the break room and things like that. They’re doing some basic things but things that have never been done before,” said Anne Ball, Program Director for Healthy Maine Streets.
Organizers say there’s a direct correlation between health and wellness and economic development meaning a healthier downtown could mean booming business.
“If you have healthy employees in your downtown more people are going to want to work there, live there, visit there. It really is a culture of health,” Ball said.
The program began in January of 2013 and the grant ends in September of this year but organizers of the program are hoping what they’ve accomplished in the past two years is sustainable.
“So they’re really working at trying to embed in their day-to-day work in those downtowns changes of health,” Ball said.
To learn more about the Healthy Maine Streets” you can check out their website healthymainestreets.org