501der Women: Conway’s Main Street Director wins statewide award

By Stefanie Brazile

Kim Williams’ love for Conway was recently acknowledged in a significant way. She was named the 2022 Outstanding Executive Director presented by Main Street Arkansas at the Arkansas Municipal League Winter Conference in March. 

“I am so honored to have received the award! When they called my name, I was in shock and thought ‘they obviously have this wrong.’ It was supposed to go to the person that I nominated,” she explained.

Photo by Lee Hogan

The biannual event is attended by anyone who works with their city. More than 1,400 people from around the state were present. A fellow director nominated Williams, and the award was voted on by other Main Street Directors. “Every one of those folks is very deserving of this award. It’s not an easy job,” Williams said. “Some of those folks are part-time, but it’s a full-time job. Some don’t have the funding that others do. It was very meaningful that they recognized me.”

Williams just began her 13th year as director of the Conway Downtown Partnership. She grew up in the small town of Berryville in northwest Arkansas, attended  UCA and never left. “This became my adopted hometown because the people are so warm and friendly, and they want you to be a part of the community,” Williams said.

After earning an education degree with a minor in marketing, she decided to use the degree outside of the classroom. 

When the weather is warm, Williams is often seen riding her bike downtown, visiting local businesses, working in flower beds, picking up trash, or doing whatever needs to be done to keep things looking fresh and welcoming. But her accomplishments run much deeper than mere aesthetics. 

A few significant projects that she’s accomplished during her tenure are: 

Downtown was recognized as a Historic Commercial District. This allows property owners to take advantage of tax credits and register their properties on the national registry as a group.

In 2013, the Central Business Improvement District passed. “Property owners are paying a ‘POA’ if you will, and it goes directly to help maintain all of the streetscaping, hanging baskets, and any new street,” Williams said. “We like to partner with the city on projects like redoing the Parkway parking lot, some lighting projects, and other capital improvements.”

In 2016, the downtown became part of Main Street America. “This allows us to qualify for $20,000 to $25,000 in grants annually which are given back to merchants for façade improvements, street décor, and advertising, among other projects,” Williams said.

“Last year, more than $11 million was invested downtown through some of those programs and we are already looking at over $20 million in either new or remodeled buildings that will finish this year,” Williams said. 

“We all work together. The Chamber, the Downtown Partnership, Conway Corp, the city. All these folks have always pulled the same direction to make downtown a better place. We know the importance when you’re trying to bring people and companies here; they come and look at downtown first.

“It’s all about the sense of place, and quality of life. Downtown is the heart of the community, and it makes the whole town come together to provide a sense of community.”