JUNE 20, 2007

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ECU receives grant to help create arts, cultural district in Ada

East Central University has received a $219,880 U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Business Opportunity Grant to begin the planning phase of a proposed arts and cultural district along East Main Street in Ada that is expected to create a number of new businesses, jobs and arts-related events.

“This is one of a series of steps to advance an arts and cultural district in Ada,” said ECU President Richard Rafes. “This is a major step forward for the community. Now we’ll go into a community-based planning phase with all our partners to determine what will be in the district.”

ECU’s Hallie Brown Ford Fine Arts Center, now under construction, will become the “anchor tenant” of the district. The second step is the future expansion of ECU’s University Center, which will include a large conference center.

“The consideration of an arts district along East Main Street has been discussed for some time,” Rafes said. “Much still needs to be done. This grant will fund a master plan and help us collect the many ideas from our community and clarify the vision for this project.”

ECU submitted the grant application to the USDA in February in cooperation with the Tri-County Indian Nations Enterprise Community.

Various groups and Ada citizens will have an opportunity to voice their opinion about the district, Rafes emphasized. Existing residences and businesses will not be directly affected.

Suggestions include pedestrian-friendly spaces and businesses broadly defined as arts-related.

Dr. Rick Wetherill, director of ECU’s Center of Continuing Education & Community Services and the project director, said the grant will:
• Allow groups to identify and analyze business opportunities using arts-based resources.
• Conduct intensive grassroots planning that is interlinked with the plans of all relevant entities.
• Provide training and technical assistance to existing and emerging arts-based businesses.
• Establish an arts-oriented business incubator to support businesses and link the district with ECU’s School of Business and Small Business Development Center.
• Link businesses with ECU’s service-learning program and the Center of Continuing Education and Community Services.

Wetherill said projections to the year 2010 indicate more than 50 direct jobs will be created by implementing the district. He also anticipates that the number of events and visitors to arts-related events will double by 2010.

“Arts events translate into jobs and income,” said Wetherill, who was a community development professional for the federal government for more than 30 years.

“Ada can expect to achieve more than $23 per person, per event, from event-related expenditures,” Wetherill said. “In short, 25,000 visitor days tied to event-related expenditures will generate a direct infusion of approximately $600,999 into the local economy.”

Next, a Project Leadership Team with representatives from arts, music and theater groups and government and business organizations will be established. An economic development coordinator will be hired, a feasibility study will be conducted and proposals will be developed to establish a business improvement district, based on a user-group consensus.

Contact: Jill Frye, ECU, (580) 310-5650