The Main Street Sylva Association (MSSA) is a non-profit entity formed with the mission to spur economic development in the town of Sylva using the National Main Street Center’s Four Point Approach: Design, Organization, Promotion, and Economic Restructuring. The initiatives will not only benefit downtown Sylva but all of the Sylva Main Street Corridor and arteries from the Dillsboro city limits through the end of the Sylva City limits on Highway 107.
The organization has taken on some of Sylva’s longstanding events such as Greening Up the Mountains, Treat Street, and the Christmas Parade. Board members represent key areas of Sylva related to the Main Street program, such as independent businesses, the arts, garden & streetscape, historic preservation, county and town planning, and residential. Tourists, locals, and adjacent town neighbors enjoy the small-town atmosphere and retail shops that support a growing outdoor economy.
Mission Statement: The mission of the Main Street Sylva Association is to promote downtown revitalization through community and economic development within the context of historic preservation. As a Main Street America™ Accredited program, the Main Street Sylva Association is a recognized leading program among the national network of more than 1,200 neighborhoods and communities that share both a commitment to creating high-quality places and to building stronger communities through preservation-based economic development. All Main Street America™ Accredited programs meet a set of National Accreditation Standards of Performance as outlined by Main Street America.
Committee members volunteer to help meet the goals of the Yearly Economic Development Plan. Committees typically have monthly meetings and volunteer for special projects and events.
A year of committee service qualifies members to apply for a seat on the Board of Directors. The 3 Committees are: Promotions, Economic Vitality and Design
The National Main Street Center was established as a program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation in 1980 as a way to address the myriad issues facing older and historic downtowns during that time. The National Main Street Center leads a movement committed to strengthening communities through preservation-based economic development in older and historic downtowns and neighborhood commercial districts. The Main Street Sylva Association was designated as a Main Street program in 1995.
As a tiny tourist town, Sylva's big tourism economy thrives despite the small local population and infrastructure. Leveraging the Main Street program allows the town to thrive economically as we focus on the 4 Main Street pillars: Economic Vitality, Design, Promotions, and Organization. Historic preservation and the outdoor economy are key components that attract locals and visitors in order to keep the town vibrant.
With the downturn of manufacturing nationwide, many small towns were at risk, and the National Main Street program was created to revive these towns using a proven strategy. Since its Main Street designation, downtown Sylva has become a bustling center of Western North Carolina with a variety of restaurants, breweries, bars, and specialty retailers. Many old buildings have been revitalized and a large percentage are owner-occupied with thriving businesses, further securing the town's assets for the future.
Bernadette Peters, Economic Development Director, Town of Sylva
With over 35 years of marketing, business development, and experience as an entrepreneur, Bernadette has a unique perspective when working with new businesses and property owners/developers. Her relationships with key partners in the county and region have allowed her to serve as a central point of contact to connect them with business support services, technical assistance providers, and funders.
Since participating in an Investment Framer Cohort, Bernadette gained additional skills around identifying promising opportunities and understanding the project development process. She has parlayed this knowledge into helping historic downtown Sylva property owners start the process of rehabilitating their properties and activating unused spaces, and she is starting to use those skills in other commercial districts to help grow the town.