Creating Safer Streets with Demonstration Projects

How do pedestrians experience your Main Street?

Main Street’s were made for walking, but some of our Virginia downtowns are still not pedestrian friendly.  The National Complete Streets Coalition’s mission to increase safe, comfortable and convenient access to community destinations and public places – whether walking, driving, bicycling or taking public transportation.  To test out creative approaches to safer street design, NCSC recently launched the Safe Streets Academy.

They worked with three cities around the country to build skills in safer street design, creative placemaking and community engagement, then helped the cities put these skills to work.  Through three demonstration projects, localities in Florida, Kentucky and Indiana transformed their streets, intersections and neighborhoods into slower, safer places for people.

In an inspired approach to planning, each locality collaborated with residents by leading peer-to-peer engagement efforts on the front end, versus coming up with solutions, then bringing them to the public.  The residents took the lead pinpointing problems at targeted intersections and guided solutions to address them.  Because of this, the localities were able to implement much more effective, relevant projects that earned stronger support from the public.

You can learn from the stories of these demonstration projects to test out low-cost ways to create safer streets.  Find out more here >>

To see these pedestrian safety initiatives in action in a Virginia community, look over Staunton’s recently approved Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan.

Also, click here to check out the new Main Street Approach Design Handbook, intended to help community leaders implement a people-centered design process.  

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Starting a New Business: Where to Begin?

We hear from many communities that they have aspiring entrepreneurs who would like to explore their business ideas but don’t know where to begin. Here are a few great resources for start-ups:

Waynesboro used funding from a Building Entrepreneurial Economies (BEE) grant from DHCD to create an online tool and one-stop shop to help entrepreneurs through the process. Their “GroWaynesboro” site helps entrepreneurs “Dream It. Plan It. Be It.” They have even developed an interactive guide to starting a business in Waynesboro.

Small Business Development Centers are a helpful resource for new and experienced entrepreneurs. The Virginia SBDC network provides customized counseling and education for small businesses. They provide one-on-one assistance for businesses, as well as small-group training on management topics that are important to small business owners. There are centers located in every region of Virginia, and you can click here to find the location nearest you.

“We have a wealth of tools with which to help entrepreneurs start, fund, analyze and grow their businesses,” says Sheri McGuire of the Longwood SBDC in Farmville. “We have a great team of consultants and staff who share a common experience in business and as entrepreneurs and will work with clients confidentially, one on one, to help them reach their goals.”

Mentorship is also important for start-ups, as seasoned entrepreneurs can help newbies by sharing experiences and lessons learned in starting and growing their business. Some localities have mentorship networks, like the Community Investment Collaborative in Charlottesville. They also received funding through the BEE program to expand their reach. There are also chapters all over Virginia for SCORE, which is the largest network of volunteer, expert business members who help small businesses get off the ground, grow and achieve their goals through education and mentorship.

If your community has an innovative program to assist budding entrepreneurs, we would like to hear about it! Email us at mainstreet@dhcd.virginia.gov to let us know what is happening in your community. You may also contact us if you have any questions about these resources or others that may be available to entrepreneurs in Virginia.

Bricks & Clicks Make Businesses Stronger Destinations

On May 2, during National Small Business Week, the city of Harrisonburg  awarded $36,700 in grants to small businesses in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County. 

Grant awards range from $1,200 to $4,900 and are the final portion of a three-pronged small business assistance program called Bricks & Clicks, which was designed to help businesses become stronger bricks-and-mortar destinations complemented with stronger websites and digital marketing.

Bricks & Clicks was developed by the city of Harrisonburg, Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance, Rockingham County, James Madison University and the Shenandoah Valley Small Business Development Center, and it was made possible by a $40,000 Building Entrepreneurial Economies grant through the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development.

The program offered businesses in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County an opportunity to learn about small business destination marketing from a national expert through a low-cost workshop, technical assistance from local marketing and visual design experts and grants of up to $5,000.  The grant awards are positioned to bring more than $70,000 worth of investment into making the selected businesses more competitive and profitable through e-commerce tools, improved websites, strategic marketing campaigns and on-site attractions.

Congratulations to the entrepreneurs and community partners!  Learn more about Bricks and Clicks here >>>

Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance will host Virginia Main Street’s Downtown Intersections on July 16-18, 2018. 

withSimplicity, a Bricks & Clicks grant recipient

Opportunity SWVA pilots Kiva loan strategy

Community development partners across Southwest Virginia are piloting the use of the Kiva crowdfunding loan platform to help small businesses expand and add jobs. Opportunity SWVA, the region’s entrepreneurial ecosystem collaborative identified five businesses in need of small loans. Over the next two weeks, the businesses are working to raise a total of $43,000 in new capital.

Begun in 2005, Kiva is primarily known for global work connecting people to capital to alleviate poverty. With loans as small as $25, individuals can put critical resources in the hands of emerging entrepreneurs.

oppswvaOpportunity SWVA, comprised of more than 25 small business development support organizations, is working with businesses that have participated in community business launches or have an ongoing relationship with a partner organization. Opportunity SWVA acts as a Kiva Trustee, attesting to the character of the potential borrower.

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SWVA Kiva entrepreneurs Eva Beaule, Steven Harris, Beth Walker, Stephen Curd, and Jennifer Bailey with Virginia Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball (third from right).

The five pilot businesses are all creating jobs with loans of up to $10,000. Several directly support regional and community transformation strategies.

  • St. Paul Main Street business Sugar Hill Brewing Company is seeking a loan to purchase a food truck.
  • Glade Spring design house and manufacturer Garic Stephens is purchasing sewing equipment to hire additional workers.
  • Architectural steel detailing firm Appalachian Drafting is purchasing a software license to put an additional person to work creating 3D holograms of buildings.
  • In Norton, All Indoor Farm Store is expanding to create Stone Mountain Adventures, a business-diversification strategy supporting the outdoor recreation economy.
  • Advenuture Mendota is purchasing new kayaks to grow the capacity of the four-year-old outfitter, which began as a revitalization strategy in the Washington County community of Mendota.

Want to learn more about how Kiva works?  Try it out!  Support one of the SWVA loans. Then, as your region or community plans its own Kiva strategy, the Opportunity SWVA team will be happy to share with you what they learned.

Make a loan and watch videos of the entrepreneurs.
Track progress of Opportunity SWVA on Facebook.
Get all of the Opportunity SWVA Kiva tools at www.opportunityswva.org/kiva.

 

Webinar Series – Downtown Buildings: Tools for Revitalization

Virginia Main Street (VMS) is hosting a series of three webinars throughout June covering topics related to downtown buildings and tools for revitalization.  All webinars are FREE, however, registration for each one is required.


Virginia Rehabilitation Code
June 6, 2018, Noon-1 p.m.

Speaker: Jeff Brown, MCP, Director of State Building Codes, DHCD

The Rehabilitation Code can sometimes be daunting for downtown building owners to navigate when determining how to make property improvements.  How do you modernize an older building without breaking the bank to meet current requirements? This webinar will help you understand what code sections to reference and available tools to make discussing your planned improvement with your local official easier.


Virginia Main Street Financial Feasibility Studies
June 13, 2018, Noon-1 p.m.

Speaker: Kathleen O. Frazier, AIA, Principal, Frazier Associates

Do you have a large-scale downtown building that sits vacant or underutilized and you do not know what can be done with it? A financial feasibility study is one way to crack open new possibilities for the building and community.  This webinar will walk through the what, when, who and how of the feasibility study process.  With a completed study, your community and property owners will know what to expect and have the answers to attract potential developers, tenants or new owners.


Virginia Maintenance Code
June 27, 2018, Noon-1 p.m.

Speaker: Jeff Brown, MCP, Director of State Building Codes, DHCD

The Maintenance Code provides localities with the means to deal with, not only unsafe structures unfit for habitation, but also the means to reduce blight and maintain property values.  In this webinar, you will learn what the Maintenance Code is and is not, as well as how your locality can enforce it to insure a fair and measured approach is taken.  Topics will cover examples of blight related ordinances, roles of the local and state boards and technical support services available through DHCD.


FIND OUT MORE AND REGISTER FOR EACH WEBINAR HERE >>>

 

Collaborate for Impact

If you want to grow your volunteer and donor pipeline, you must reach out to your locals and create an opportunity for input.  Listen and find out what they love about where they live.  If they see their ideas implemented, they are more likely to contribute their time and money, making Main Street’s mission much easier to achieve.

Community engagement works best where it is an ongoing cumulative process enabling relationships and trust to build and strengthen over time.  There is a range of levels and techniques for participation. Resources are popping up to make it easier to navigate through it all.

From the Main Street America network, there is the new publication Community Engagement for Main Street Transformation, a guiding framework for understanding how to launch or strengthen the community engagement efforts.  Thankfully, it does not stop there.  Here are few worthwhile articles and resources:

What works for your community?

FastTrac Program Available for Entrepreneurs

You have an idea. That’s where it starts. Now what do you do with the idea? You could start a business, but how do you make it viable? The Kauffman FastTrac program can help you find the answer.

The Kauffman Foundation has been helping entrepreneurs for more than 50 years, and the FastTrac program has been designed as a flexible course with a solid framework to support you as you start a business and begin your journey to success. This immersive course is designed to provide information, tips, exercises and tools to help you go from concept to reality.

The course will help you:

  • Discover how your business concept matches your personal vision.
  • Align your business concept with a real-market opportunity.
  • Find your target market and discover your competitive advantage.
  • Determine the unique features and benefits to your product/service.
  • Learn how to set realistic financial goals for your business.
  • Define your company’s brand and marketing.
  • Learn how to manage business functions and develop an organizational culture.
  • Determine the steps to profitability.
  • Identify potential sources of funding for your business.
  • Launch your business.

The FastTrac program has been used to train more than 300,000 entrepreneurs throughout the past 25 years, and now an online version is available for free for the first time. For more information about the FastTrac program, click here.