Dyersburg Façade Improvements and Entrepreneur Development

Dyersburg, Tennessee

Dyersburg, located in Dyer County, serves as the regional center for Northwest Tennessee. The county seat is home to higher education, corporations, retail businesses and services that serve numerous counties. Downtown Dyersburg is the historic center of commerce for the county. Today the Main Street District is host to a range of new businesses, corporate tenets and entrepreneur services that build upon the city’s rich architecture and history of preservation.

Downtown Dyersburg is home to one of Tennessee’s most successful downtown farmers markets and notable agriculture businesses Pennington Seed and Supply and Develey Mustard & Condiment Company that announced the location of their manufacturing operation in Dyersburg in March of 2016 and their downtown store a few months later. These agriculture-based enterprises thrive today in keeping with the county’s strong agricultural history.

Successful improvements to downtown properties and investments in entrepreneur-led services are leveraging private investment. The private and public partnerships are catalyzing the economic development results that the community is currently experiencing.  If the definition of successful rural economic development is creating the conditions for business investment and success, Dyersburg is excelling in making this so in their region.

Tennessee Main Street Designation  

In 2006, the Dyersburg/Dyer County Chamber of Commerce and city leaders collaborated to become Tennessee’s 22nd accredited Main Street community. Since that time, Main Street Dyersburg and partners have created their farmers market, put in place strategic streetscape infrastructure with the City of Dyersburg, and implemented downtown promotions that are producing significant impacts.

In 2017, Main Street Dyersburg obtained TNECD funding for two initiatives that are yielding great entrepreneur development and local business creation results. The first action was geared to support the expansion and location of new businesses by preparing downtown properties to support new commercial activities. The second built upon the interest of an entrepreneur who was locating in the downtown district to provide entrepreneur services for the community.

Dyersburg Main Street Farmers Market

Created in 2007, the Main Street Farmers Market is a program of the Dyersburg/Dyer County Chamber of Commerce and is administered by Main Street Dyersburg. The goal of the program is to promote direct farm marketing of locally grown fresh produce at a centralized location through weekly markets and downtown events. The farmers market is a joint effort of the Lannom Family, the City of Dyersburg and the County of Dyer and is located on the banks of the Forked Deer River in the River Park development. Major funding has been provided by The Tennessee Department of Agriculture – Tennessee Agriculture Enhancement Program (TAEP) and the TNECD Tennessee Main Street Innovation Grant. Additional partnerships and resource providers include UT-TSU Extension, UT Center for Profitable Agriculture, the Dyer County Master Gardener Program, Pick Tennessee Products and the Tennessee Agritourism Association.

Façade Improvement Program

As their farmers market developed, Main Street leaders focused attention on rehabilitation of key buildings located on and adjacent to the courthouse square. This addressed the need to preserve the character of downtown and create viable locations for new businesses. Main Street Dyersburg began to review neglected and blighted buildings within the Main Street district. Proposed improvements included structural and façade improvements including painting, replacement of awnings and entrances, windows, and necessary exterior brickwork, masonry and plaster repair and replacement.

The primary goal of this project was to take a comprehensive approach to utilize available grant funding to make quality improvements to key buildings located in the Main Street district. The secondary goal of the project was to prove to the community Dyersburg cares for its historic district.

In 2017, Dyersburg received a $100,000 TNECD Façade Improvement Grant (FIG) that supported the renovation of 11 downtown buildings and business storefronts through 20 projects. Improvements ranged from complete storefront rehabilitation to restoration of exterior finishes and window repair as well as painting, canopy and awning installation, and signage. Many iconic buildings were improved through the project that leveraged local investments with FIG funding. Main Street leaders worked with the city and Community Development Partners to provide design and construction assistance and administer the project.

In addition to the FIG projects, the downtown saw improvements to several additional buildings including the iconic Pennington Seed and Supply company that rehabilitated two commercial spaces that now house two new retail businesses. Develey Mustard & Condiments located its first North American production facility in Dyersburg; the international company invested over $20 million in the new operation with a commitment to create 150 jobs over a five-year period. Company leaders also committed to downtown development and started a Downtown Oktoberfest and purchased three historic buildings on the courthouse square. They participated in the FIG program to make exterior improvements to the building and opened their The Mustard Co. Store that has created a culinary tourism destination and additional retail in downtown.  

Entrepreneur Development

Also in 2017, Main Street Dyersburg received news of funding through the TNECD Main Street Entrepreneur Grant (MEG) program to establish entrepreneur and co-working services. This provided the opportunity to create a new public/private partnership with an entrepreneur who planned to create a co-working space in the community. This investor had previous experience providing entrepreneur services and had purchased two distressed properties for this venture.  Dyersburg Main Street worked with this investor to create The Mill Workspace and obtained $50,000 in MEG funding to assist in renovation of the facility with over $350,000 in private funding provided by the developer. Additional grant funding from USDA Rural Development and TVA provided furnishings, equipment and energy efficiency improvements. The owner also took advantage of the FIG program to make improvements to the exterior of the buildings so that he could invest in the building’s interior, co-working and networking events, entrepreneur training services and start-up costs for the center.

Through these collaborations, The Mill Workspace is equipped with meeting and conference rooms with conferencing equipment, a makerspace including 3-D printers and design software, and a marketing lab including photography and videography equipment to help members market their businesses and livestream their services. The Mill owner has created partnerships with the Chamber to host all Dyersburg Young Professionals (YP) gatherings and Main Street Dyersburg to host pop-up retail, several downtown events and to create a new Downtown Dyersburg Facebook page and accompanying social media. These efforts have increased local involvement in downtown events and business services. The Mill has directly incubated two new professional services businesses and a new partnership with the Launch 731 Ministry who uses the center as their home base for their weekly gatherings and live streaming services. Another partnership with Nonprofit Dynamics has provided professional services in startup and operation of the project.

The community response has been positive with local entrepreneurs and business owners taking advantage of the co-working space, networking events, and training in the first year of operation. The location of The Mill and internet business in two underutilized buildings along a side street in the downtown spurred the development of the Pennington Seed property located directly across the street and the several surrounding new retail establishments. Through their unique collaboration, Downtown Dyersburg has created Northwest Tennessee’s model downtown-based entrepreneur center and services.

Economic and Community Impact

Dyersburg’s Main Street program efforts have attracted a tremendous amount of interest and investment in the downtown district. The eleven properties that were improved have resulted in the location of new and expanding businesses. New entrepreneur training and co-working facilities and networking events have stimulated public gatherings and activities.

Through the completion of both projects in a relatively short period of time, Dyersburg Main Street has increased the number of new businesses, events and jobs in response to market demand and realized a 4:1 return on property and entrepreneur center privately funded and federal investments to TNECD grant funding. All of the completed improvements offer greater opportunity for business growth, and building owners are seeing increased values and improved marketability of their properties. Combined 2017 and 2018 results include

FIG and MEG Building Rehabilitations 11
Privately Funded Building Rehabilitations 5
Publicly Funded Improvements (County Court Clerk Building, County Archives, Farmers Market improvements)  4
Downtown Jobs Created 17
Downtown Businesses Created/Expanded (Ladies Clothing, Bath and Body Products, Pop-Up Retail) 3
Co-working Space Participants 20
Entrepreneur and Downtown Events Hosted 50
Networking and Downtown Events Participants 1800
Entrepreneur Classes Offered (Co.Starter “Get Started” sessions)  2
Entrepreneur Class Participants  6
MEG Downtown Businesses/Non-profits created (Business Marketing and Executive Coaching professional services, non-profit ministry) 3

Project Funding

TNECD Façade Improvement Program Grant  $100,000.00
Property/Business Owner Match  $25,000.00
TNECD Main Street Entrepreneur Grant  (Interior Renovations) $50,000.00
The Mill Workspace Investments  $350,000.00
USDA Rural Business Development (RBDG) Grant (Equipment and Furnishings) $30,000.00
TVA Incubator Program Grant (Equipment and Furnishings) $30,000.00
USDA Rural Energy for America (REAP) Grant  (Energy Efficiency) $12,500.00
TOTAL DOWNTOWN DEVELOPMENT FUNDING (Projections for state and federal grant funding, property and business owner investments) $597,500

Project Leaders and Partners

Dyersburg Main Street
The Mill Workspace
Dyersburg/Dyer County Chamber of Commerce
City of Dyersburg
USDA Rural Development – Tennessee Office
Tennessee Valley Authority
Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development (TNECD)

For project information contact Dyersburg Main Street.

TNECD Tennessee Main Street, Façade Improvement and Main Street Entrepreneur Grant Programs

Downtown revitalization is a critical component of successful rural economic and community development. TNECD encourages revitalization and adaptive reuse of commercial buildings in downtown business districts through the Tennessee Main Street and the Façade Improvement Grant (FIG) programs that provide technical assistance and funding for building improvements. TNECD also encourages entrepreneurship development and adaptive reuse of commercial buildings in downtown business districts with the Main Street Entrepreneur Grant program that funds activities that put vacant and/or underutilized buildings into productive service to serve as economic drivers and to develop entrepreneurs. Tennessee Main Street program resources along with TNECD Façade Improvement Program  and  Entrepreneur Grant funding work together to help communities revitalize their downtown districts and create new businesses through the Governor’s Rural Task Force and Tennessee Rural Economic Opportunity Acts of 2016 - 2018.

For more information visit TNECD Community and Rural Development.