Governor praises Mt. Lebanon’s Uptown business district

Group of men in a shop
Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro stopped at Commonwealth Press during a visit to Washington Road to promote his new economic development plan, which features $25 million in funding for small businesses and local business districts. From left: Matt Smith, Allegheny Conference on Community Development; state Rep. Dan Miller; Shapiro and Commonweath Press owner Dan Rugh. /Photo: John Schisler

When Gov. Josh Shapiro was looking for a place to promote his proposed Main Street Matters economic development initiative, state Rep. Dan Miller had a suggestion.

“The governor was looking for vibrant uptown possibilities that show what good local operations could do with state support, and also what could be done in the future,” he said.

Miller, who serves as House Majority Whip, helped secure a $32,810 grant for Mt. Lebanon’s Vibrant Uptown streetscape project, which he believed shows an example of just what the governor was looking for.

Shapiro is requesting $25 million in the state budget for Main Street Matters, a program designed to support small businesses and strengthen local business districts. When he visited Mt. Lebanon in February, he was enthusiastic about Washington Road’s dynamic business district.

“This is an example of what we want to do everywhere,” he said. “We’re trying to get more Main Streets to have the opportunities you guys have, and take what we’ve done here and extend it out.”

Miller was appreciative of the turnout of all five commissioners for the mid-week visit, and also “the energy that seemed to be around the Main Street Matters initiative, which is a sixfold increase in state support for Main Street programs.”

He sees the program as a return to a time when state government was more active in community development.

“Maybe 20 years ago, there was more robust effort from the state to be a vehicle for local projects,” he said, “But following the 2008 crash and subsequent budget issues, from that point forward, certain line items were not as strong, proportionally, as they needed to be.”

Miller thinks Main Street Matters will inject some much-needed vitality into local economies across the state, and would actually like to see the program expand even wider.

“To be honest, I wish we could find even more support, to do better than that. As much as I love bringing resources home to my district, we know there are other communities that are not so far along as Mt. Lebanon in revitalizing their uptowns or downtowns into a place where people want to be.”

He cites towns in Washington, Westmoreland and Fayette counties as an example of places that used to have thriving business districts.

“When you see that happen, it represents a greater challenge inside those communities,” he said. “It’s important for the state to apply a tourniquet, and allow local efforts to build off of that state support and have a better chance of success.”

Miller sees investing in the future of neighborhood business districts as a win for everyone.

“It’s the type of infusion that is designed to grow the pie down the road,” he said. “There are certain things that allow businesses to grow, but it does take maintenance on the local, county and state side. Those targeted investments allow for distinguishable growth. Business districts are what helps to grow a community.”