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New Leadership Aims to Boost
 Thurmont's Main Street

Scott Zuke

(6/22) Less than a month into her new tenure as Thurmont's Main Street program manager, Vickie Grinder says one of her first priorities is to reach out to local business owners with a simple question: "How can we help you?"

Now in its eighth year, the Main Street program remains the centerpiece of Thurmont's economic development efforts, but after several years of struggles during the economic downturn and frequent turnover in the program's leadership, Grinder is heading an effort to rebuild the program with an emphasis on serving as a provider of information and resources to small businesses in town. Those resources will soon be centralized in a dedicated Main Street office space in the former Thurmont branch library building near the town square, which is currently being renovated.

"There's something about Main Street that ties the business community together," Grinder said. "A lot of towns don't have Main Streets, but it seems to be the backbone of economic development in this country. If Main Street is thriving, is aesthetically nice, the other businesses in town benefit from it as well."

The town's refocusing on the Main Street program has come at the cost of some tension with the Thurmont Economic Development Committee (EDC), an independent organization which in recent years has focused more on organizing public promotional events than on direct business development. At the June 4 meeting of the Thurmont Board of Commissioners, Mayor Martin Burns suggested that the town sever official ties with the EDC, citing serious disagreements with some of the group's recent decisions, although he declined to delve into specifics in public.

Meanwhile, the Main Street program has set out to reestablish its presence in town. Since taking office on June 3, Grinder has begun reaching out to business owners with a new information packet explaining what the Main Street program is, what it can do for the community, and how they can get involved.

Another initiative is to arrange for regular guest speakers to come to town to give public presentations on government policies effecting small businesses and on general good business practices. The first speaker will be Nick Rudolf from the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development, which runs the Main Street Maryland program, who will discuss the program at a breakfast meeting on July 17 from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. at the Mountain Gate restaurant. Grinder says she hopes to bring in speakers from the state government to talk about the Affordable Care Act, as well as experts from the Small Business Administration to discuss topics like how to write effective business plans.

Grinder's other projects focus on promoting the town and drawing in tourism. She is currently working on a new brochure that she hopes will catch the eyes of travelers in Gettysburg during its extremely busy tourism season. She is also working with the Thurmont Historical Society and Star-Spangled Tours to establish a guided day tour of attractions in the northern part of the county, and expects to get Emmitsburg involved soon as well.

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