Building Entrepreneurial Economies (BEE) Innovation Day on Oct. 13 — Register Now!

InnovationThe Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) will be holding a Building Entrepreneurial Economies (BEE) Innovation Day on Thursday, Oct. 13 in Lynchburg, VA. This event will provide the opportunity for business leaders to share and discuss innovative ideas in entrepreneurship development.

Several recent BEE Innovation and Implementation grant recipients will share about their BEE funded projects and how they are having an impact on their communities. The day will also allow time for participants to discuss various aspects of the BEE program. A guest speaker from the Association for Enterprise Opportunity will talk about their recent study on the topic of linking young adults to entrepreneurship and business opportunities. 

This event will allow participants to see the initiatives that communities have put in place to improve their entrepreneurial ecosystem and to get some ideas of how to replicate those initiatives in other communities and regions.

The BEE program provides grants and technical assistance to nonprofit organizations and local governments that plan and implement innovative, comprehensive, strategic and sustainable business development strategies that support local and regional asset-based economic development. DHCD seeks to invest in strategies and projects that support entrepreneurs developing businesses.

Register for this event


Create a Stronger, More Cohesive Community

Our hearts are deeply connected to our communities, so we want to be part of the decisions that impact our community’s future.  They can affect our quality of life, job opportunities, public health and most of all, our families.  But, how do we become part of that decision making, a real participant that impacts direction?

This question was posed to the crowd attending a session at the 2016 Main Street Now Conference, and the response was uplifting, providing “a-ha” moments and real tools for the task. Who was at the podium? The leadership of the Orton Family Foundation, who believed that the strength of a community lies in the hand and the hearts of the people who live there, and that the community’s heart and soul is the common cause that they will rally around.

The foundation developed the Community Heart and Soul Field Guide to help communities build a better future based on what matters most to its residents.  The guide rests on three key principles and gives clear steps to follow:

  1. Involve everyone
  2. Focus on what matters
  3. Play the long game, meaning target long-term success

The field guide just got an update, too, after a year-long evaluation done by Wake Forest University.

Now it is time to connect in your community for a real, old-fashioned barn raising!

Community Heart and Soul Pic

Community Heart and Soul Field Guide

Make Your Downtown an Easy Target for New Business

Why should an entrepreneur choose your downtown for a new location? 

Selling your community to prospective entrepreneurs is challenging without the information they need to make location decisions. Throughout the last few years, Kansas’ Emporia Main Street refined an attractive and easily updateable business investment guide to help make the choice that much easier.  The guide sells the community and gives prospects the confidence to move forward quickly.

Executive Director Casey Woods, Emporia Main Street, says, “The Business Investment Guide has a tremendous impact on our ability to focus business and community development in a strategic, sustainable manner. Since the development of the guide, Emporia Main Street has been able to more effectively partner with a variety of individuals that now know how to invest in our downtown area, and the results of the implementation of the Business Investment Guide are significant. Downtown Emporia has had $48 million dollars in reinvestment in the last seven years (which is fairly significant for rural Kansas) and the Business Investment Guide played a significant role in the redevelopment and recruitment process.”

Emporia Main Street crafted a simple formula for the guide, Inspiration + Information + Presentation = Entrepreneurs and Progress:


Emporia Main Street, Kansas Business Investment Guide

Inspiration: Communicate current market opportunities with sales leakage and demographic information and support the data with the downtown vision, examples of successful Main Street projects and their economic impacts.

Information: Connect entrepreneurs to your local assets, like the available business incentives; maps showing pedestrian paths and business locations using color-coded maps; a full event calendar and statistics about attendance; facts about the local workforce; and professional resources and social outlets.

Presentation: Craft a sales pitch using clever titles that double as benefit statements and design the final guide to be attractive and inviting, then promote digital copies through social media and print customized versions for that target market entrepreneur.

Emporia Main Street wants your downtown to experience the same success attracting business investment, so they made a business investment guide shell available online, so you can get a jump start on yours.

Thank you, Emporia!


Revisit Your Community’s Unique Assets

MSA LogoThe National Main Street Center publishes a Main Street Story of the Week each week. These articles share information, tips and advice from experts around the country. In one of the recently posted articles “Revisit Your Community’s Unique Assets: Connecting Asset-Based Economic Development to Community Transformation Strategies,” the author discusses leveraging unique, local assets to achieve economic revitalization. The article also provides tips on conducting your own asset inventory and using those to shape your strategies moving forward.

Check out the center’s website for more articles and information that you may find helpful.


Give your local artists the business tools for success

When we talk about entrepreneurship, so often artists can be left out of the conversation. The Staunton Creative Community Fund (Staunton Fund) has been examining entrepreneurship through the lens of artists. Wrapping up the spring with a Bach n’ Roll Roundtable, the Staunton Fund brought together stakeholders to talk about needs and ideas for growing the local artist community.

As a result, this summer, the Staunton Fund is expanding their offerings for artist entrepreneurs by partnering with the 2nd Annual Virginia Street Art Festival to offer a smART Marketing Workshop on Aug. 27 in Waynesboro. This workshop will cover topics such as developing a digital presence, defining your target market, developing partnerships and community resources in the area. This class will allow the Staunton Fund to gain some perspective on how to support artists and creatives in the community. Following the workshop, the 2nd Annual Virginia Street Arts Festival will be in full swing for the entire afternoon and evening, featuring live music from local musicians, painters creating their vision on a 100-foot by 20-foot wall, food trucks, children activities and more.

Share this opportunity with your local artisans!

Street Arts Festival_smART Marketing_event photo

Homegrown Hospitality Development in Downtown St. Paul

In early July 2016, ground was broken in downtown St. Paul for a long-awaited $7.3 million boutique hotel that will be called the Western Front Hotel.  This project is a result of the hard work and drive of local leaders to take revitalization of downtown St. Paul into their own hands, embracing a community-initiated development approach to create real change to the economy based on local and regional assets, such as the architecture and surrounding natural landscape.

A member of the development team, Kimberly Christner, president of Cornerstone Hospitality, said the heart and determination that her company saw in the people of St. Paul drew them to the little town between the Clinch River and the Spearhead Trail.

“There are a ton of things happening there [St. Paul], but what really sold us were the people,” Christner said. “St. Paul was willing to help us in the process of getting this done and they are really forward-thinking. The town and the people are all on the same page, they were even ahead of our thought process for this project.”

Rendering of the renovated Western Front Hotel in St. Paul, VA

Rendering of the renovated Western Front Hotel in St. Paul, VA

The hotel is an adaptive-reuse of the historic Willis and Dye buildings, a former mixed-use commercial building with 22 apartments and six store fronts. Once finished, the hotel will have 33 rooms, a restaurant, rooftop bar and dining and outdoor entertainment spaces.  The hotel opening is projected for April 2017.

St. Paul is a Virginia Main Street community designated in 2011.  Embracing the Main Street Approach to revitalize downtown is just part of the plan to enhance the area with additional development, create great spaces and provide an environment in which sustainable growth can occur.

Three Steps to Refresh Your Main Street Strategies for Visible Results

How can your local Main Street program better use limited resources to create vibrant, people-centered places?

The Main Street Approach has been a successful model for NMSC06_WEBBANNER_F_APPROACHolder commercial district revitalization for more than 35 years and is used to revitalize and manage downtowns in more than 2,000 communities across the U.S.  The Four Point approach offers a simple guide to comprehensively address a complex and sometimes chaotic downtown environment.  While that is true, it is a challenge to get the equation just right to catalyze reinvestment, create jobs and create a better quality of life, and especially to do it just right.

Throughout the past few years, the National Main Street Center has conducted surveys, convened a task force of experts and engaged closely with the Main Street network to develop a revised framework.  This revision, called the Four Point Refresh, is the same approach, just sharpened, made more strategic and with a focus on visible results.

  1. Identify the Community Vision for Success – This essential step provides a foundation for outlining the community’s own identity, expectations and ideals, while building off of market opportunities.
  2. Create Community Transformation Strategies – Work together to identify strategies that provide a clear sense of priorities and direction.  These strategies align with the four key areas: economic vitality, effective promotion, quality design and a sustainable organization.  Typically communities will find two to three strategies to help reach a community vision.
  3. Implement and Measure – To succeed, the effort must be able to demonstrate the wise use of resources, which translates to real change on the ground: new jobs added to Main Street, new businesses open, buildings redeveloped and certainly other metrics of success.

Find out more about how to make your local revitalization efforts better, stronger and faster by coming to the next Virginia Main Street training. VMS offers trainings throughout the year, and there is sure to be one near you.