Honoring Our Partner in Business of the Year: Oil City Main Street Program

The Oil City Main Street Program will be recognized as the Venango Area Chamber of Commerce 2019 Partner in Business.

The Program, embarking on its eighth full year of operation, follows the Main Street approach, a comprehensive, volunteer-driven strategy used to revitalize older and historic downtown and neighborhood business districts across the country using four main pillars:  Design, Promotion, Organization, and Economic Vitality.  A cooperative effort between the City of Oil City and the Oil Region Alliance that launched in fall 2011, it is led by Main Street Manager Kathy Bailey.

Designation & Funding

A significant achievement for the Oil City Main Street Program came in fall 2019, with the news of its recent designation as a Keystone Main Street by the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED). 

In late December 2019, the City of Oil City received the news that an August application to DCED successfully netted a new round of $50,000 in façade grant funding for downtown storefront improvements. OCMS has implemented façade grant funding between 2012-2017, awarding $109,069 in grants for 47 projects that were matched by $178,660 in private investment, resulting in $287,729 in storefront improvements.

The Oil City Main Street Program’s Design Committee coordinates the façade grant program as well as a storefront window display contest, historic preservation initiatives, and other physical improvement projects.

ARTS Oil City

A program focused on artist relocation and revitalization has been under the umbrella of Oil City Main Street since October 2017.“ARTS Oil City is an economic development initiative that has attracted over 45 professional artists from around the country to our community,” noted Bailey. “The mission of ARTS Oil City goes hand-in-hand with the mission of the Oil City Main Street Program.”

The program is fronted by Stew Armstrong, who joined the Oil City Main Street Staff in 2018 as Artist Liaison and Marketing Coordinator to continue the program’s efforts.

“The mission of ARTS Oil City is essentially based on two points of focus,” stated Armstrong. “First, to reach out to artists across the country to let them know that Oil City is a wonderful place to practice and create, and invite them here. Second, we encourage and promote the already-vibrant arts community here, working with individuals and organizations that support and participate in the arts locally.”

“Top 10” Recognition and “Townie”Award

In June 2019, the Oil City Main Street Program was named one of the ten Best Performing Programs for the previous year by the Pennsylvania Downtown Center (PDC), and received its third Townie Award, this one in conjunction with the Oil City Arts Council. The 2019 award, presented at PDC’s 2019 Annual Conference in Erie, was for the inaugural 2018 BridgeFest under the category of Community Marketing/Special Events.

“BridgeFest is a truly unique event: featuring a great big party on two different bridges, on two different evenings, each organized by two separate organizations,” stated Bailey.  The Oil City Main Street Program earned two prior Townie Awards:  one in 2017 for its Downtown Murals initiative, and one in 2018 for the Center Street Bridge Illumination Project.

Downtown Events

In addition to BridgeFest, the Oil City Main Street Program hosts a variety of events to attract people into downtown Oil City.  The robust schedule includes two “Oil City Uncorked” wine walks each year plus Music on the Square, O.C.toberFest, Small Business Saturday, Oil City’s Christmas Past, and the Jingle Bell 5K Run/Walk. In 2019, OCMS organized two new elements for the Oil Heritage Festival events, including a Touch-A-Truck display, and a Main Street Beer Garden to enhance the Justus Park concerts. 

Community Clean-Up Day & Planting

The Oil City Main Street Program organizes an annual Community Clean-Up Day and Adopt-A-Block program.  Twenty-two groups and five individual volunteers either participated in the April 17, 2019 clean-up even tor committed to keeping an assigned area clean from spring through mid-November. 

Each spring, the Safe, Clean & Green Committee installs approximately 30 flowering planters on sidewalks along various downtown streets and 12 hanging flower baskets near the Town Square.  The group also organizes the installation of “winter baskets” featuring live greenery around the square.

Economic Development Initiatives

The Oil City Main Street Program’s Economic Vitality Committee works behind the scenes to foster a healthy business district.  In 2019, the committee spent time updating a Business Resource Guide, and developing strategies to help market available space.  The guide and other resources for downtown businesses will be released in early 2020.  

Bailey notes that 2020 will be another vigorous year for downtown Oil City. 

“2019 was another whirlwind for us, and there is no slowing down.  We are delighted with the successes we can celebrate and will continue to roll up our sleeves what lies ahead.  Despite the challenges and setbacks that can face us, we are committed to carry out our mission of making downtown Oil City an attractive and vibrant place.  With the continued partnership and support of the business community, our local leaders, and residents, Oil City will continue to brighten in the years to come.”

Join us in celebrating Webco Industries and the Oil City Main Street Program, our Partner in Business of the Year, at our Annual Dinner on February 19. Register here.

This article was published in the Venango Chamber’s February 2020 VenangoWorks! Newsletter.

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