A comparative case study of the Main Street Program in the United States

Authored by: Glenn Sterner

The Routledge handbook of comparative rural policy

Print publication date:  November  2019
Online publication date:  October  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138594111
eBook ISBN: 9780429489075
Adobe ISBN:


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Rural development policy in the United States often sees tensions between the three levels of government: federal, state, and local. To examine how federal program development and implementation may create tensions at the state and local level, this chapter highlights the case of the Main Streets Program. This federally designed program, implemented through the National Trust for Historic Preservation, emphasizes community revitalization while encouraging historic preservation of America’s downtown Main Streets. Utilizing qualitative key informant interviews, this case study emphasizes the differences, tensions, and positive aspects of implementing a federal program. The experiences of two rural towns located in different states are compared. The chapter presents several key findings including: the need for feedback loops for state and local individuals to federal agencies, the importance of local capacity development in program implementation, the impacts of state tax structures and policies on local development, and the effects of providing structure for local development efforts. The chapter concludes with recommendations for policy-makers at the federal level.

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