It’s not easy being a small town in need of new business, which takes money and manpower to attract. The solution: Operation Facelift, a unique downtown revitalization program that was low cost, high energy and widespread in its success in boosting 11 Southern Idaho communities.
For five days, from June 14 to 18, 2011, residents of Castleford, Burley, Filer, Glenns Ferry, Gooding, Heyburn, Jerome, Kimberly, Paul, Rupert and Twin Falls swept, painted, planted, washed and renovated their communities in an effort to bring new life and new business to town.
“Our objective was to provide a region-wide project that would help improve downtown areas, build community pride and encourage downtown economic activity,” says Jan Rogers executive director of the Southern Idaho Economic Development Organization (SIEDO), which launched Operation Facelift with Southern Idaho Rural Development.
The project was funded by SIEDO and the Idaho National Laboratory. Each community was given $1,000 seed money, and expected to raise any additional funds needed. More than 200 volunteers across the region participated in the project. Operation Facelift was born at a SIEDO board meeting in March 2011. Communities were approached to participate and identified projects, which varied widely. With an exuberant logo and the motto, "New Look. New Attitude. New Business.", volunteers went to work.
Cleanup Projects Vary Widely
In Castleford, a town of about 400 people, volunteers painted four different properties, including the shabby King of Hearts bar.
“It looked like it was about to fall down,” says Larry Hall, director of Southern Idaho Rural Development, who captained the project with Rogers. “Volunteers stripped off some stuff, stained the building, painted the little grocery across the street, and then cleaned up the whole town, filling up three dumpsters. This was the little town that could.”
Knutson’s Kustom Kutting, a meat-cutting shop, got some TLC in Filer, while Glenns Ferry volunteers painted, washed windows, cleaned up storefronts and sprayed the streets. In Burley, Pay Day Loans was given a pretty new face. Heyburn gussied up its roller skate park, and in Gooding, Mayor Duke Morton rallied the community to improve an old theater building and freshen up a laundry.
“When you drive through Kimberly now, it is just not the same place it was,” says Hall. “El Cazadore, right on the main intersection, became a new place when it was painted a bright rust color.”
Firefighters, police and city council members were among those in Jerome who beautified five buildings downtown. In Paul, the owner of a repainted restaurant was inspired to paint the interior as well. Rupert saw two old buildings painted, with new signage and trim.
And in Twin Falls, an empty building that once housed a soda fountain and a shoe store was given new life when an old overhang and shabby signage were removed and a new paint job provided. Soon after Operation Facelift, the building was leased to a new tenant, a party apparel shop. Similar economic development results are expected over the next year.
“People in the towns where it has been done in a significant way are just stoked, excited about what is going on,” says Hall. “People are sharing and saying, ‘I want to be part of this next year.’”
Read more about the community in Twin Falls, ID.