We've all heard that big things come in small packages. Well, in the small town of McMinnville, Tennessee, a group of visionary folks are planning something pretty big: a community-wide effort to develop a 3D model of their town in Google Earth -- the first of its kind in the state. The project, dubbed 3D Downtown, is being led by a non-profit organization called Main Street McMinnville and includes volunteers from the State Department of Economic and Community Development, the City Planning office, the Chamber of Commerce, the local College and Technology Center, and a host of local businesses.

This coming Friday at 9 a.m. sharp, Main Street McMinnville will host a modeling training session to officially kick off the project. Local volunteer modelers have signed on to participate; participants from Google will also be on-site to lead the training of the Google SketchUp Pro and Google Earth Pro software that we've donated to help the effort. We hope this local endeavor will inspire members of other communities to coordinate 3D modeling projects of their own. Like McMinnville, many towns are faced with the challenge of balancing the need for growth with historic preservation, while seeking more effective ways to engage the community in a dialogue. The introduction of realistic yet virtual representations of towns could help facilitate solving these issues. From design professionals and urban planners to city agencies and people responsible for economic development, anyone and everyone can access and use our tools.

If you'd like to develop a 3D model of your own, you can use our free, downloadable modeling tools via the Google SketchUp website. For larger modeling projects, we offer SketchUp Pro and Google Earth Pro software. We encourage communities that are limited by funds or resources to apply for SketchUp Pro licenses. We look forward to seeing your town in a whole new dimension!