- Associated Press - Monday, August 1, 2016

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - Sixteen New Mexico cities and towns have received accreditation from the National Main Street Center setting up more possible funding for revitalizing downtowns.

The accreditation, announced last month, means places like Raton, Albuquerque, and Truth or Consequences can apply for capital outlay funds and technical assistance to preserve historic sites in the heart of what was once their economic centers.

Economic Development Secretary Jon Barela said the accreditation was a reflection of the 16 communities who have firm plans to revamp their downtowns and energized their local economies.

“I believe historic preservation is fundamental to rural economic growth,” Barela said. “We want to see rural downtown communities to become the centers for job creations.”

The National Main Street Center, Inc. works with a nationwide network of coordinating programs and local communities to encourage preservation-based revitalization. It was established in 1980 as a program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

The announcement comes as Barela is pushing small towns to refurbish historic theaters using Main Street funding.

State officials believe reviving theaters in old mining towns and small cities near American Indian reservations will help create jobs in struggling downtown districts and spark renewed interest in entertainment areas. Officials hope the theaters serve as places audiences can take in a newly released film or play locally instead of traveling to bigger cities.

Rich Williams, director of the New Mexico Main Street Program, said the accreditation was based on towns’ marketing plans and long-term goals.

Among those to win accreditation was Grants - a western New Mexico city located along the historic Route 66.

Robert Brown, president of the Grants Mainstreet Project, Inc., said the accreditation helps since the city is trying to push several development projects from enhancing a downtown park to revamping the city’s legacy trails.

“We’re trying to enhance our downtown after the downsizing of the nearby mines. The uranium industry is all but dead,” Brown said, referring to the mines that kept the city going for years. “So we are looking at different ways to bring people to the city.”

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Follow Russell Contreras on Twitter at https://twitter.com/russcontreras . His work can be found at https://bigstory.ap.org/content/russell-contreras .

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