AZTEC — Aztec city officials are holding a public meeting to ask residents and business owners to help identify a single project that could help improve the city. The project could focus on improving curb appeal, adding jobs, or revitalizing an historic building or space, for example.

The project would be supported by the state Economic Development Department's Frontier Communities Initiative, a program in its second year that offers "technical support for small, rural communities (less than 7,500 in population) to develop a catalytic, economic development project within a traditional or historic commercial district," according to a press release from the department.

Applications for the program are due to the state's Economic Development Department by Sept. 8.

Pedestrians on Wednesday walk along South Main Street in Aztec.
Pedestrians on Wednesday walk along South Main Street in Aztec. (Jon Austria/The Daily Times)

Established by the state legislature and signed into law by Gov. Susana Martinez last year, the program is coordinated by — but separate from — the state's MainStreet program. Both programs are part of the state's efforts to support community-based economic development in rural areas whose historic or commercial districts could benefit from an upgrade.

The Frontier program limits its support to one project that can be developed and realized within a one-year period.

"We want to get our businesses going and benefit the entire community," said City Manager Josh Ray. "Hopefully we'll get community support for it. The meeting will be a chance for everybody to come and bring their ideas and share them. The program gives us the chance to get some input and support on one project that would revitalize our town."

Ray said possible single projects that would qualify could include the installation of public art, the addition of storefront awnings along Main Avenue, the restoration of the Aztec Theater's long-missing marquee or the enhancement of the city's smallest park, the open-air plaza next door to Rubio's Restaurant.

"There are a lot of different possibilities, and I'm hoping to hear from folks on what ideas they have," Ray said. "(Projects) have to be possible to complete within six months to a year and would be easy to do and generate some excitement."

The Frontier program is not a grant program and does not provide any direct dollars for a community to spend, however. Instead, it offers "a professional team ... comprised of architects, urban planners, economic development, fund raising, grant writing, capacity building professionals," Rich Williams, director of the program, wrote in an email. "They work with the community stakeholders (a group of 5 to 7 business or property owners, city officials or civic leaders) to develop 'do-able' realistic plans, develop the process and pathway to complete the project and assist in connecting the group to the appropriate funding sources to get the project done."

Of 16 rural communities that applied to the Frontier program last year, eight were awarded the state's technical help, including rehabilitation of historic thoroughfares in Carrizozo and Lordsburg, facade improvements in Wagon Mound, way finding signs and image development for the village center of Santa Clara and pedestrian safety and infrastructure improvements along the Moriarty stretch of Historic Route 66.

For more information on Frontier Communities Initiative, contact the state's Economic Development Department at 505-827-0168 or go to www.gonm.biz/Frontier_Communities.aspx.

IF YOU GO

What: Frontier Communities Initiative meeting

When: 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 13

Where: Crash Music at the Historic Aztec Theater, 104 N. Main Ave., in Aztec

Cost: Free. Refreshments served.

More info: Call 505-427-6748

James Fenton covers Aztec and Bloomfield for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4621 and jfenton@daily-times.com. Follow him @fentondt on Twitter.