The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Editorials

March 25, 2014

Past, present point Bedford in right direction

JOHNSTOWN — Bedford seems to found the path to success for its business district, and its Main Street program has paved the way.

Strong leadership and a large group of community-minded volunteers have come together to make the most of Bedford County’s capital.

“While everybody else seems to be struggling, we’re doing quite well,” said Tonya Grimes, manager of Downtown Bedford Inc.

Bedford has a long and storied past, from its well-publicized visit from George Washington to its ties to the first national highway – what is now Route 30 – and the business leaders of Bedford do their best to capitalize on that history.

They’ve done it, in part by embracing technology. Bedford created an application for mobile phones that helps visitors explore downtown Bedford. With information on restaurants, businesses, shopping options, events listings and visitor information, the app helps merge past and present in a way that is appealing to today’s consumer.

Ideas like that have helped Bedford become a semifinalist for the 2014 Great American Main Street Award. Downtown Bedford is competing against nine other communities in Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia and Wyoming.

With just four square blocks in its commercial district, Bedford is the smallest semifinalist, and its population of 2,838 ranks next to last, with most of its competitors boasting five times as many residents. But what Bedford lacks in numbers it more than makes up for in enthusiasm, as more than 50 volunteers stretch across committees in the areas of promotion, organization, design and economic restructuring.

Top award winners will be determined in May at the national conference in Detroit. Bedford Borough Councilman Jim Wehling said a strong showing could have a big impact on tourism for his community, which is located almost halfway between Pittsburgh and Washington D.C.

“It matters in terms of trying to land Bedford as a travel location, particularly in the Washington, D.C., area,” he said. “It helps with the impression that Bedford might be a good place to visit, with its historical feature and Forbes Road.”

We wish Bedford well in the Main Street competition. No matter how it turns out, we’re confident that the community is headed in the right direction.

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