Thriving downtowns provide the lifeblood that make cities a great place for people to live, work and play. That’s why I am so pleased that the city of Augusta is launching a new program that will revitalize our beautiful downtown.

The Tipping Point Small Business Development Program is designed to spur downtown redevelopment along Augusta’s historic waterfront. It is an innovative program that provides incentives to downtown property owners to start businesses, renovate and repair existing buildings and convert vacant and under-used space into housing.

This initiative is extremely personal to me because I grew up in this community, and after graduating from University of Maine and a short stint at another bank, I’ve worked at Kennebec Savings Bank for 23 years. I have seen Augusta’s downtown when it was thriving, and I have seen it when there were so many vacant storefronts that you wouldn’t have a reason to spend time or money there.

I recognize the importance of a vibrant downtown in providing the lifeblood of the city. The downtown is the heart of the city, pumping blood into the arteries — the rest of Augusta and its surrounding communities. The success of this program is vital to the economic and community development of our entire region.

Did you know that Kennebec Savings Bank itself had its start on Water Street in our downtown back in 1870? The bank remained on Water Street through 1959, and to this day we consider ourselves to be a vital part of the downtown. That makes this program even more relevant, not only for me, but for everyone who works at the bank. Water Street is, and remains, the main street of our Capital City. That is where our bank acknowledged the importance of main streets and downtowns to the vibrancy and vitality of a community. The purpose of downtowns was, and remains, to bring people together, as can be seen by the roles played today by main streets throughout Kennebec County.

Kennebec Savings Bank does its part to enhance downtowns in two distinct ways. One is through direct investment in developments and business projects, many of which are going on now throughout the region. The other is by supporting community activities and nonprofits through donations, sponsorships and volunteerism.

Often, I see these two approaches working in concert, with the result being a larger impact than either would have on their own. For example, an investment in the local public library, theater or residential space will bring people into the downtown area, with nearby shops and restaurants benefitting from the increase of people in the area.

Kennebec Savings Bank believes supporting and sustaining viable, lively main streets is an investment in each community’s future. We want to see Augusta’s waterfront downtown become the vibrant place that it was when our bank was founded there. That’s why we support Augusta Downtown Alliance, the Augusta Board of Trade and the Kennebec Valley Chamber of Commerce.

A program like this Tipping Point Initiative can provide a small business owner with much-needed capital to bring an idea to reality and provide much-needed services or products to attract people who to visit our downtown. It can also inspire people to invest in their own residential or commercial spaces downtown.

I look forward to walking down Water Street and, looking both right and left, seeing interesting shops, restaurants and businesses that are thriving in 2017 and beyond. I also look forward to the day when residents and visitors alike are enjoying the vibrancy of our waterfront downtown.

Our mighty Kennebec River waterway connects many of the communities that our bank serves — Waterville, Augusta, Hallowell and Gardiner — and the success of each one of these communities will literally flow over to the next. Having such an amazing waterway flow through the downtown is a resource we must not take for granted. The Tipping Point Initiative must leverage all these strengths and more. I am excited about watching what local entrepreneurs and business owners can do with the incentives available to them through this new program.

We’re building a stronger community together.

Andrew Silsby is president and CEO of Kennebec Savings Bank.

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