A series of discussions is tentatively planned for September to gather input on this concept from residents, business owners and other merchants, Lafferty said.
"The county is very interested in seeing this succeed," he said. He noted that he is joined on the 17-member partnership board by a representative of the Howard County Economic Development Authority.
Lilley said the partnership has also been communicating with Main Street Maryland, a coalition of 26 main street districts organized by the state's Department of Housing and Community Development. That program strengthens the economic potential of traditional main streets by helping them increase private-sector small business investment, and improve the appearance and image of their core business districts.
Amy Seitz, state coordinator of Main Street Maryland, said quality of life, character of a city or town and design of the built environment are key factors in applicants' success in receiving an MSM designation, which is a competitive process.
While applications are generated by local government, having a group of committed individuals who can take the reins after designation is granted is a mandatory component.
"Downtown areas don't deteriorate overnight or come back overnight," Seitz said. "We need to be sure that our Main Streets have the right care and feeding."
She likened earning a Main Street Maryland designation to being branded as a place of interest for tourists who can make their way from one side of the state to the other in a day, allowing for travel-friendly day trips.
Though not all candidates are accepted on their first try — Sykesville first applied in 2008 but wasn't successful until 2012, for instance — Seitz said she'd "be very surprised if Ellicott City were turned down," after it submits an application.
"It is the middle of a wagon wheel whose spokes lead to other communities" in the county, she said.
The combination of the new partnership, hiring a town manager, and anticipated receipt of a Main Street Maryland designation will give the historic town a new sheen, Lilley said.
"It's truly a way to revitalize the town," he said. "Ellicott City is certainly not dying on the vine, but this will give it a boost."