Study Shows Main Street’s Economic Impact

Donovan Rypkema knows about the economic realities of small Iowa towns, especially if those towns are part of the Main Street Iowa program. And he has good news to share about their economic success.

According to a study conducted by Rypkema’s research firm, PlaceEconomics, the impact on Main Street communities in the state since the program was launched in 1986 has been 11,000 net new jobs created, 3,800 net new businesses, and $1.1 billion in private investment in the communities’ downtown districts.

Jefferson became a Main Street community in early 2012 and is now entering its first full calendar year as Jefferson Matters: Main Street. There are 49 Main Street communities in the state.

Rypkema’s study includes data collected by Main Street Iowa communities from 1986 to 2012. He looked even closer at the data by conducting case studies in six Main Street towns of varying population and geographic location: Bloomfield, Cedar Falls, Dubuque, Oskaloosa, Valley Junction and Woodbine.

He presented his findings at a Main Street Iowa workshop on Thursday morning, Jan. 31, in Historic Valley Junction, a Main Street community since 1987, and in Des Moines later that day to elected officials and state business leaders. JM:MS’s Chris Henning, board president, and Alan Robinson, program director, were at the workshop.

The overall numbers are impressive. “The estimated 2012 sales tax receipts from net new businesses in Main Street Communities was approximately 48 times the budget of the Main Street Iowa program,” said Rypkema.

His Main Street Iowa economic data further shows:

*Total sales tax collected from net new businesses has been $43 million a year.

*Nearly $72 has been invested back into the communities for every dollar required to run the program.

*The communities have enjoyed net new job growth in 25 of 26 years. Comparatively, the job growth in all the communities of Iowa occurred in only eight of the 26 years.

But Rypkema talks more than just facts and figures. He puts the information in language that Iowa taxpayers and local elected officials can understand. “These extra sales tax dollars here,” he said pointing at chart with an upward arrow, “translate into 2 new policemen hired or 2 ½ blocks of street paving in a community.”

Rypkema broke out his data to show the impact on cities with a population of over 5,000 and those under 5,000 to make the point that data from larger Main Street cities like Dubuque, Waterloo and Davenport, for example, did not skew the figures to counteract less impactful numbers among the smaller communities.

The average sale price of buildings in the 5,000 and over population cities was $59,448 in the 1990s and increased to $154,827 since 2000. The increase was just as dramatic in the towns—like Jefferson—with a population under 5,000. The average building sale price of $40,166 in the 1990s increased to $130,764 since 2000.

He also presented data on the impact of downtown business building rehabilitation in Iowa:

*Over the life of Main Street Iowa, an average of 623 jobs annually were created from building rehabilitation; in the last decade, the rate has been 1,000 jobs annually.

*Over the life of Main Street Iowa, an average of $23 million in income was generated each year from building rehabilitation; in the last decade, $35 million per year in income was generated.

*When Main Street began in Iowa, the income per job from building rehabilitation was just under $15,000. Today it is $36,000.

“This information shows the value of becoming a Main Street Iowa community,” said Chris Henning, JM:MS board president. “The study is so exciting! It affirms that our downtown improvements can have lasting impact on our community.”

To review the entire report, go to:

Community residents will have the opportunity to help define the success of the Main Street program in downtown Jefferson on Thursday, Feb. 21, when Jefferson Matters: Main Street will hold a Visioning Program from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. at City Hall.  A light supper at 5 p.m. will precede the presentation. Participants will be asked to define how they see the JM:MS downtown district and organization in 10 years. The event will be facilitated by Main Street Iowa’s state coordinator, Michael Wagler, and assistant state coordinator, Darlene Strachan.

RSVP for the light supper and program by calling 515-386-3585 or sending an email to


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