From staff reports
Main Street Marianna Executive Director Meghan Basford was in Deland Thursday, July 28, to accept two Florida Main Street Awards from Florida Secretary of State Cord Byrd.
One of the awards was for Johnson Equity Holdings, which rents space to other businesses in its building on Lafayette Street, once home to Suntrust bank but now a hub of operations for several local entrepreneurs.
Main Street Marianna and the Chipola College Tech Tribe jointly won the other, an Excellence Award in the category of Outstanding Private/Public Partnership.
Byrd presented those and other Florida community awards at the annual Preservation on Main Street Conference. The awards program “recognizes the innovative projects, people, organizations, and businesses in Florida’s 57 Main Street communities,” according to a press release from Byrd’s office issued earlier this week.
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“I am proud to recognize the success and achievement of this year’s award winners,” Byrd said in the release. “Their efforts to promote economic development and historic preservation are crucial to revitalizing Florida’s historic downtowns and the communities they support.”
The award taken home by Basford on behalf of MSM and Chipola College was a triumph for a shared vision of Basford and Connie Smith of Chipola College theatre.
When Basford started looking for a way to create “prop-style” pieces for guests to enjoy at public events in Marianna, things that they could use for play and as photo opportunity stations, she turned to Smith, who leads the technical side of theater instruction and stage presentations at Chipola College.
Smith was immediately on board, seeing it as an opportunity for her students to apply the skills they were learning to real-world projects that would serve their community. So far, they’ve created three durable sets of pieces that can now be used year-to-year.
The projects and the effort were described in the nomination.
“Meghan described the theming for some of the prop pieces, Connie worked the concepts into the curriculum for the 2021-2022 school year, and the students went to work,” it states. “They created some scarecrow and pumpkin themed face-in-hole props for the Pumpkins in the Park event, a gorgeous life-sized sleigh for Santa Claus to greet children in during their Christmas in Candyland Parade & Festival, and a St. Patrick’s Day themed miniature croquet course for their Shamrock Shenanigans event. The students went above and beyond in their creativity and craftsmanship, and the pieces were enjoyed by thousands of people. Because of the partnership between Chipola College’s Tech Program and Marianna Main Street, the students were able to display their talents to a much wider audience, and the community members were able to experience the plethora of talents and abilities that these students demonstrate.”
As for the Johnson Equity Holdings award, the nomination document from MSM explained some of the reasons it was chosen for submission.
Owners Charlie and Nicole Johnson are lifelong residents of Jackson County with a national presence in the construction, property management and real estate fields, MSM explained, and after Hurricane Michael developed a vision and purpose far beyond personal profit for the old Suntrust Bank downtown off Lafayette Street.
“In the middle of downtown Marianna, the old SunTrust Building sat vacant for quite some time after the hurricane. The Johnson’s saw the potential for this building and were able to visualize what they wanted its future to look like. After the purchase of the building, they began working right away. The Johnsons now have seven total companies that do business within the 16,000 square foot building, and they have a growing potential of 10-12 based on the size of the business. They were able to take what was once an empty, gray shell of a building, breathe life into it, and turn it into a thriving center of commerce for downtown Marianna.”
The Johnson nomination also stated that the two “understand the positive impact that a thriving downtown has on the economy as well as community morale. The Johnsons believe that Marianna has so much potential, and they appreciate the charming, hometown feeling that Marianna has to offer. After Category-Five Hurricane Michael ravaged the entirety of Jackson County in 2018, the time had come to rebuild again. The Johnsons desired to become a part of the downtown revitalization efforts, and their hopes were that when local business owners and residents finally saw improvements being made downtown, it would ignite a flame in them as well. Their desire was to fan those flames of hometown pride and to embolden individual desire to make improvements all over the downtown area.”