The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

March 17, 2014

Bedford Main Street program honored

Kathy Mellott

BEDFORD — The Bedford business district, where leaders combine 250-year-old  history with 21st century expectations, is getting some national attention.

Downtown Bedford’s Main Street program has been selected as a semifinalist for the 2014 Great American Main Street Award, said Tonya Grimes, downtown Bedford’s manager.

Coming out on top of the 10 other applicants nationwide that have reached the semifinalist level would mean a great deal to improving what is already a great area, said Jim Wheling, a Bedford Borough Council member.

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

With the historic Route 30 – once called Forbes Road – passing through downtown Bedford, George Washington in the mid-1700s stayed in town for a spell as his troops quelled the Whiskey Rebellion.

Wheling, who also serves on  a number of committees of the Main Street program, said efforts to attract visitors from the Pittsburgh area has been successful.

It’s points east that are proving more difficult.

To be eligible for the award, a Main Street program must have four active committees in the areas of promotion, organization, design and economic restructuring, Grimes said.

The committees meet once a month, and in Bedford’s case have more than 50 community-mined volunteers who are making a difference, Grimes said.

Case in point: Unlike the business districts of many small towns, Bedford has just one vacant storefront, she said.

“While everybody else seems to be struggling, we’re doing quite well,” she said.

Carolyn Dellutri, senior director of programs and services for the National Main Street Center, sponsors of the award, said this year’s semifinalists prove once again the transformative power of the Main Street movement.

The Main Street idea has been around for three decades, she said, and has resulted in close to $60 billion in reinvestment.

Top award winners will be awarded at the 2014 National Main Street Conference in Detroit on May 18, Grimes said.

Along with Bedford, the semifinalist list includes: Gettysburg; Beaufort, S.C.; Grand Haven, Mich.; Harrisonburg, Va.; Middlesborough, Ky., Milledgeville, Ga.; Pontiac, Ill., Rawlins, Wyo.; and Woodbine, Iowa.

Kathy Mellott covers Bedford County for The Tribune-Democrat. follow her on Twitter at