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January 4, 2014

Main St. milestone: Somerset revitalization program marks 20th year

SOMERSET — Somerset Inc. has existed much longer than most of Pennsylvania’s downtown revitalization projects do.

This year marks its 20th year of activity.

Participants in the state Department of Community and Economic Development’s former Main Street Program, which has been consolidated into the Keystone Communities Program, often cease operations shortly after their five years of funding expire. In comparison, Somerset Inc. has grown into an integral member of the borough’s economic community.

It is only the third Main Street program in the state to reach the 20-year milestone, according to its executive director, Stephanie Williams.

“We’ve gained the support of the local community, financially and with volunteer support,” Williams said.

Somerset Inc. works with partners, such as the Somerset County Chamber of Commerce and Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau, along with many businesses, to enhance the municipality’s central district.

“I would have to say that Somerset Inc., like a lot of Main Street programs, is a catalyst for change,” said Williams. “We meet with the people who are movers and shakers. ... We may not do the projects, but we sit at the table and make sure the projects get done.”

Redevelopment Authority of Somerset County Executive Director Steve Spochart said, “It’s an avenue to help promote the businesses as a whole and just kind of centralize things a little bit.”

Somerset Inc. will use its Fire & Ice Gala, scheduled for Saturday, to officially begin its 20th-year festivities. Other anniversary events throughout the year will include a town portrait, open house and Celebrate Somerset!, a community party set for August.

Dave Sutor is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/Dave_Sutor.

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