Mount Vernon improves its downtown, helping area businesses thrive

Situated just 40 miles northeast of Columbus, the city of Mount Vernon continues to grow its residential and business communities while maintaining its small town charm.

Mount Vernon’s location has made it a magnet for people from larger neighboring cities, such as Westerville, Mansfield, and Newark, and its hometown advocates are faithful and encouraging, says Carrie Crouch, downtown manager at the Heritage Centre Association in Mount Vernon.

It’s arguable that such community support is one of  the reasons several companies in the area have celebrated milestone anniversaries −including 60, 80, 90 and 100 years in business− in 2012.

Prominent industries in Knox County (Mount Vernon is the county seat)  include manufacturing, farming, retail, health care, and technology, Crouch says.

Additionally, the county is home to three universities Mount Vernon Nazarene University, Kenyon College, and Central Ohio Technical Collegethat draw educated employees and students from around the country, she says.

Small businesses and entrepreneurs looking to set up shop in Mount Vernon are advised to make use of the Knox County Chamber of Commerce.

“Before looking at available space, designing a store logo, or signing a lease, their first stop should be the Knox County Chamber of Commerce,” she says. “The excellent staff there will connect them with Ohio’s Small Business Development Centers and SCORE. They will set up personal consultation times with both organizations.”

That process gives business owners and entrepreneurs the resources to do proper research, create a business plan, and help acquaint them with some of the challenges they may face, she adds.

To help preserve Mount Vernon’s heritage, the Knox County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau worked to get a portion of its downtown listed on the the National Register of Historic Places.

Bounded by South Main, South Mulberry, South Gay, West High, Vine, Gambier and Howard streets, as well as Ohio Avenue and Phillips Drive, the district was officially added on Feb. 3.

The designation has created “interest and draw on a tourism level,” Crouch says, adding that design review guidelines for the area are being established.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, she says businesses in that section of town are thriving.

Other enhancements that have been beneficial for Mount Vernon business owners over the last eight years include streetscape improvements and updated street, parking and directional signage.

Further, a directory was recently installed downtown and there are plans for additional ones.

“I’d personally like to see a few more specialty shops and/or boutiques in the downtown area,” Crouch says. “Creating strong places to shop downtown assists in establishing a ‘Think Mount Vernon First’ atmosphere for choosing to shop in town versus online or thinking we have to travel an hour to Columbus.”

To learn more about the city of Mount Vernon, visit MountVernonOhio.org

To learn more about the Knox County Chamber of Commerce, visit KnoxChamber.com.

Images courtesy of MountVernonOhio.org.