BATH — The Maine Downtown Center honored William King, of Bath, on Oct. 12 by naming an award in his honor.

The Downtown Visionary Award, which is given to individuals who help revitalize downtowns through the Main Street program – will now be known as the William F. King Jr. Downtown Champion Award.

King is himself a recipient of the visionary award from 2005, and a long-time champion of businesses in downtown Bath and beyond.

“Bill King is a passionate believer in the economic, historic and cultural value downtowns bring to communities, and he has unselfishly given his time and energy to reinvigorating downtowns across the state,” said Jonathan Edgerton, senior advisor of MDC’s Downtown Advisory Council, in a news release.

King was instrumental in bringing the Main Street program to Maine, and has received national recognition for his role in the revitalization of cities and towns across the state. He’s spent over 20 years working on downtown programs in Bath, since moving his business to the region in 1972.

King said he got his start in volunteering back when he worked for his father’s company, which was originally his grandfather’s company. “One of the requirements was if you were a salesperson or a principal, that you had to belong to an association and you had to volunteer and help out,” he said. “I early on learned to be a part of what was going on.”

When he moved to Bath, King quickly got involved in the local business community and was elected president of the Bath Area Chamber of Commerce just three years later.

That organization, while it served its purpose, started to fall short, said King.

“We were beginning to get what I call ‘refugees from the big city,’” he said. Those individuals wanted to start their own businesses and had their own ideas, and the Bath Business Association was formed.

That, too, however, began to fall short.

“We were at the point where we had more than we could handle,” said King. “I remember I sat down and wrote down all the projects we had going on … and I came up with 32, because we’d developed enough credibility so everyone relative to Bath was coming to us for help.”

Nationally, the Main Street program was formed to assist businesses in a similar way to what the Bath Business Association was trying to do. King invited the program to see the progress in Bath. At the time, there was no statewide Main Street organization.

After getting some advice from the national organization, and getting some more communities involved, Maine’s Main Street organization was born.

“We got a state organization created in 2000, and we were one of the first four communities to be a Main Street,” said King. “We sat down, I remember, down on the waterfront in the rotary kiosk, and hashed out whether we were going to be a main street or stay as a business association.”

King still volunteers in communities across the state, helping them with organization and offering advice from his decades of experience championing small businesses.

Seeing places like Bath, which have the vibrant Main Street Bath program and a business community that’s organized, cooperative, and positive, makes all the work more than worth it, said King.
“Angus King said to me once, ‘Bill this is a game where you’ve got three things you have to look for and work out. The first is attitude. The second is attitude. And the third, believe it or not, is attitude. A can-do attitude is a biggy. Once you get that working, you can do anything.”

He said he plans on continuing to be a champion for small businesses, if only because he’s having too much fun to stop.

“It’s fun,” he said. “Plus, at our age it’s nice to have something to do!”

For more information on the Maine Development Foundation and Maine Downtown Center, visit www.mdf.org.