Downtown Milford Inc. is looking forward to 2016 and is looking forward to continuing their efforts to make Milford a great place to live, work and shop. One of the things DMI is looking forward to during 2016 is the adoption by the City of the Downtown Master Plan submitted by Arnette Muldrow & Associates in 2015. The plan was be presented at the City Council meeting on Monday, January 11, 2016 and a committee for Rivertown Rebirth was appointed at that meeting.
“We plan to be very proactive with the new master plan,” said Lee Nelson, Executive Director of DMI. “We are also extremely supportive of the new Marketing Milford project. We want to promote Milford as a destination, as a place where people can come find great food, unique shops and a friendly atmosphere.”
One of the new projects DMI has created is the Diversity Project, which has led to several events in the city. The Diversity Project has led to a mural project, an entrepreneurial network and connection with many minority-owned businesses in the town. One event that developed from the Diversity Project was the International Food Festival which was held for the first time in November 2015. Mr. Nelson said that the event was extremely well-received and they look forward to it being an annual event.
Mr. Nelson said that funding and volunteers are always the biggest challenge faced by DMI each year. He said that DMI is a completely volunteer-run organization with more than 200 volunteers meeting the challenges the organization faces each year.
“Last year, we had more than 5,400 volunteer hours, and I know that number is seriously under-reported,” Mr. Nelson said. “Our volunteers often underestimate the number of hours they spend on projects. Interestingly, last year we were at a conference and the state of Michigan was very proud that their eight Main Street organizations had over 13,000 volunteer hours. Milford had almost half as many hours with our one organization, demonstrating that our citizens are very generous with their time in order to give back to our community.” According to Mr. Nelson, experts say that one volunteer hour represents $23 in value to the organization. This means that citizens of Milord gave more than $110,000 in service to DMI alone in 2015 and many of those citizens volunteered for more than one charitable organization during the year.
DMI is very active in economic development for the city, Mr. Nelson said. The organization encourages business owners to take advantage of opportunities offered by the Delaware Economic Development Office, such as specialized training and other activities designed to help business owners. DMI offers small business loans for companies to purchase new equipment as well as a Five-for-Free benefit.
“The Five-for-Free benefit provides five free gallons of paint to a business owner if they buy five gallons of paint for the interior or exterior of the building,” Mr. Nelson said. “This is just one of the benefits we offer to promote economic development in the downtown area.”
Mr. Nelson said that popular events from previous years will return in 2016. The Farmers’ Market, Bug & Bud Festival, Brewgrass Festival, St. Patrick’s Day Pub Crawl, Eat-in-the-Street and Roaring 20’s Lawn Party at Causey Mansion will all be returning for the new year. Mr. Nelson said that they plan to focus more on historic preservation for 2016 through the newly established Milford Historic Preservation Committee. The committee is working to develop a grant program that will provide small home repair grants for home and business owners who may not be able to afford repairs to the façade of their historic building. Details are still being worked out regarding criteria for the grant, but DMI hopes that the process will be in place by 2017. The goal is to help home and business owners repair a home that has been deemed historic and to discourage the demolishing of historic buildings in the city. Anyone who is interested in volunteering for projects through DMI can call 302-839-1180 or visit them online at www.downtownmilford.org.