Downtown Vision program works to stay on course.

Nine years have passed since a local group pursued a plan to power Garden City's historic downtown district.

In 2004, Garden City Downtown Vision succeeded in becoming a Kansas Main Street (KMS) affiliate. An organized, structured effort to revitalize downtown Garden City and boost its businesses was launched.

The KMS program, with expertise to help downtown districts looking to recapture business and restore energy, offered many ways for member communities to grow in that regard.

Much has happened for Garden City Downtown Vision since that time, to include the organization recently receiving its ninth straight designation as an accredited National Main Street Program, having met the strict commercial district revitalization performance standards set by the National Trust Main Street Center.

It's an even more notable accomplishment considering a recent curve ball from the state.

Last year, the state shut down the KMS program. Local Main Street organizations, Garden City's included, had utilized KMS training and expertise in crafting strategies intended to spur job growth and other economic success stories.

Undeterred, Garden City Downtown Vision and other Main Street programs in the state pushed forward in forming a new organization intent on meeting National Main Street accreditation criteria, continuing central business district revitalization programs and adding more Sunflower State communities to the mix.

As part of its mission, the group hoped to preserve a number of beneficial strategies. For example, many success stories emerged due to Incentives Without Walls, a program that allowed Main Street organizations to apply for zero-interest loans of up to $20,000 each to assist businesses with specific projects. The funds were matched, and as loans were repaid the dollars went back into a revolving loan account.

Downtown districts and their small businesses warrant the support of such initiatives. Without the investment, towns would be much more likely to see their downtowns decline, which sends the wrong message to prospective businesses and residents.

With that in mind, recent news of another year of accreditation for Garden City Downtown Vision was proof of the program staying on track, and worthy of applause from local supporters of economic development.