Building Collaborative Communities and Community Business Launch How-to-Apply Workshops announced

CBL-BCC1The Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) has announced funding is available for the Building Collaborative Communities (BCC) and Community Business Launch (CBL) programs for fiscal year 2015-2016.

DHCD grant programs offer flexible resources to do more across your community and region. Register below for one of the how-to-apply workshops to learn about the programs, the successful projects they have funded in the past, program changes for the coming year and how you can best position your effort.

Building Collaborative Communities

Building Collaborative Communities (BCC) provides resources and technical assistance to distressed regions to stimulate job creation and economic development while building community capacity and leadership. Grants must be multi-jurisdictional and can fund a range of projects and activities which will foster regional economic growth and increase collaboration and investment from a broad and diverse contingent of stakeholder groups.

Community Business Launch

The Community Business Launch (CBL) is designed to assist communities in taking a systems approach to building an asset-based small business development strategy. The program starts with a community’s unique vision for its future and then uses a local business competition to find and foster the entrepreneurs that connect with that vision. The CBL offers financial and content resources, guidance, and a learning network of communities pursuing similar strategies. By designing your own CBL, you can help your community develop a coordinated, comprehensive sustainable environment that identifies, launches and supports community-based entrepreneurs.


Wednesday, June 3
10 a.m.

Thursday, June 4
10:00 a.m.

Tuesday, June 9
1 p.m.

Wednesday, June 10
10 a.m.

Wednesday, June 17
10 a.m.

Please register at least three days before the workshop to receive the location address and additional details. If you are unable to attend a workshop, please contact for additional details.

Market Your Main Street: Low-cost, high-impact strategies to get out your message

Your Main Street program is tasked with meeting the needs of many different stakeholders: visitors, business owners, municipalities, donors, volunteers, etc. How you communicate your message to a wide audience with different interests requires segmenting them and then having separate conversations unique to their interests.

Join the National Main Street Center for a webinar led by Pamela Herrmann with the Paragon Effect on Thursday, May 21 at 2 p.m. to learn a new tactic that will help you do pinpointed marketing that is low cost and highly effective. You will not want to miss it, so register today!









Celebrating Virginia Business Appreciation Month

Bam Logo Full - Blue-02


In recognition of Business Appreciation Month, DHCD continues to recognize amazing businesses across the commonwealth, and we hope you will continue to do the same in your communities! Here are few great snapshots of businesses in SWVA doing great things! Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to find out more about #VABiz!



May 2015 is Business Appreciation Month

Bam Logo Full - Blue-02Governor McAuliffe recognizes May 2015 as Business Appreciation Month. DHCD has provided a list of ways you can celebrate this month-long recognition on our site at BUSINESS APPRECIATION MONTH.  The site features downloadable versions of the logos for you to use on your material, as well as ways to celebrate your local businesses and potential ways to garner media attention. Governor McAuliffe’s official proclamation is also located on the page.

Every year since 1963, the president of the United States has issued a proclamation announcing National Small Business Week, which recognizes the critical contributions of America’s entrepreneurs and small business owners. This year, the Small Business Administration is offering five FREE webinars on a variety of business topics. Check out the list of webinars here and share with your downtown businesses today!


DHCD announces Virginia Main Street Milestone Award Winners

VMS1The Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development announced today the Virginia Main Street Program Milestone Achievement Awards to designated Virginia Main Street communities. The awards were presented at a dinner in Richmond that also celebrated the 30th anniversary of the Virginia program.

“The Virginia Main Street program is a vital part of building a new Virginia economy,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Maurice Jones. “The work throughout the 25 Virginia Main Street communities and the many affiliates has created sustainable and vibrant downtowns that make Virginia communities a great place to live, work, play and do business.”VMS2

Main Street communities and organizations were recognized for achieving notable milestones in volunteer contribution, private investment and building rehabilitation. Secretary of Commerce and Trade Maurice Jones served as keynote speaker for the event.

Major kudos go out to the Community Development staff who put on this great event! Pictures of the event will be posted soon on our Flickr site.

To see the entire list of winners, click here.

Walk the Line of Country Music History: Bristol and the Birthplace of Country Music Museum

 Many downtowns have a community anchor, such as a cultural heritage museum, that helps bring a number of new visitors to town.  These visitors have the potential to not only create significant economic impact, but also help spread the word about your downtown. We asked our guest blogger, Rene Rodgers, associate curator at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum and former associate director for Believe in Bristol, to share some thoughts on how this state-of-the-art museum can bring economic impact to downtown Bristol.

Bristol signAs a Main Street community, Bristol, Tennessee-Virginia* has a lot going for it. A downtown filled with restaurants, art galleries, shops and residential lofts; a variety of year-round events; a lively culture of music; extensive entrepreneurial spirit; community partnerships; and historic character. These are just a few of the things that combine to make Bristol’s downtown vibrant and continually growing.

One of the most recent additions to Historic Downtown Bristol is the Birthplace of Country Music Museum (BCMM), which opened on Aug. 1, 2014. This 24,000-square-foot facility shares the story of the 1927 Bristol Sessions, known as the “big bang of country music.” It also explores the developments in technology that played a part in the success of those recordings and the impact those historic recordings have had on American and world music. All of this is done through high-tech and acoustically-driven exhibits that invite visitors to interact with and actually experience the music, which is a wonderful way to learn and one that has proved popular and energizing.

BCMM was years in the making. From the beginning when a group of like-minded people came together well over a decade ago wanting to find a way to honor and celebrate Bristol’s music heritage, until the time when construction began and the day its doors opened, it has been a labor of love. More than $10 million was raised during that time frame, through a multitude of sources. Smithsonian affiliation was applied for and granted, and the community became involved in a variety of ways such as fundraising, local experts coming together to form the exhibition content team, as architects and contractors, and by contributing artifacts and artwork to the museum’s collection.

Birthplace of County Music Museum – Photo credit: Fresh Air Photo

The question now is: How will this museum impact Bristol as a Main Street community?

  •  BCMM will be an important anchor for Bristol’s Main Street, bringing together elements of community, education, heritage and tourism and economic development.
  • Bristol’s Main Street program is built on strong community partnerships, and the museum’s parent organization Birthplace of Country Music, along with the sister music festival, Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion, have been important players in the development of those bonds. The museum will help to foster those bonds further and bring new partnerships into the mix, all of which will help to grow the Main Street community and its assets.
  • As an educational institution, the museum brings a host of resources to a local and regional community that might not normally have access to such things. These include hosting in-house special exhibits and traveling exhibitions from the Smithsonian, other museums and institutions and guest curators, tours for schools and large groups, educational programming for children and adults, research and archival collections that further the understanding of Bristol’s music history and heritage and a variety of events that support BCMM’s educational mission.

    Birthplace of County Music Museum lobby

    Birthplace of County Music Museum lobby – Photo credit: Fresh Air Photo

  • BCMM celebrates a very specific story, one that could not be told anywhere else, the story of the 1927 Bristol Sessions. Embracing this heritage has also been an important element in the development of Bristol’s lively music culture over recent years and the success and growth of Rhythm and Roots. This “hook” is an important facet in Bristol’s tourism profile, one that brings locals out every night of the week to hear great music, makes Bristol a part of Virginia’s Crooked Road and Tennessee’s Sunny Side Trail, and now, with the opening of BCMM, further encourages a host of national and international visitors to see Bristol as a wonderful travel destination. The media attention from the opening of the museum has been overwhelming, from National Geographic, national newspapers and foreign travel writers to our local media’s continued support and coverage by Rolling Stone and other music media outlets, an increase in visitors to Bristol has been the result.
  • As more visitors come to Bristol’s downtown to visit the museum, there will be obvious economic spin-offs including increased restaurant and retail activity, the possibility of longer opening hours becoming the “norm,” always tricky with small mom-and-pop businesses, more “after hours” (i.e. night/weekend) traffic downtown and the development of new events to cater to visitors and locals alike. These changes will, in turn, attract and encourage further economic development, and hopefully, impact in a positive way on the success of those ventures. Indeed, Bristol is already gearing up for the opening of two craft breweries, both just around the corner from the museum, a boutique hotel, named in honor of the Bristol Sessions and a recording studio and offices for a record label, all great additions to Bristol’s music heritage.

The stories the Birthplace of Country Music Museum tells, along with the back story of the creation of the museum itself, are important and interesting.

Most important, however, are the many ways that this museum is and will continue to be a wonderful asset and resource to Bristol, its Main Street community and beyond.

*Believe in Bristol is designated a Main Street community in both Virginia and Tennessee because the city of Bristol is located on the border of Virginia and Tennessee.

Helping our businesses get the financing they need

Many small businesses and potential entrepreneurs in our downtowns struggle getting the financing they need to start or expand their business. We asked guest blogger Christina Cain, executive director at Staunton Creative Community Fund, to share some strategies for how her organization has been able to help small businesses gain access to capital.

christina cain

The biggest obstacle to small businesses that want to start or expand is access to capital. The answer for many is not a traditional business loan. There are several common reasons traditional loans are not for all small businesses: cost, availability, too much current debt and fear of failure. As a micro lender, what do we do? Diversify how we get access to capital for our clients.  Here are three examples of how we are addressing diversification:

  • Our Virginia Individual Development Account (VIDA ), through the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD), provides a matched-savings program for individuals to save money and build better futures for themselves and their families. Upon qualifying, they will earn $2 for every $1 they save, for a total of up to $6,000, that can be used for post-secondary education or to start or expand a business. (Editor’s Note: VIDA funds  may also be used to purchase a home.) Additionally, they receive financial literacy training to help them save money wisely, create realistic household spending plans and set their saving goals and values. This program is a powerful combination of access to capital, education and support that so many of our clients need. This program helps people manage their debt and gives them the flexibility to take the risk of starting a business where they may not have done so before. Check out the info about our VIDA program at


  • Crowdfunding can be an amazing vehicle for micro businesses to get the dollars that they need. This can be great for the project that is being funded, but what about the backers? I have to be honest, crowdfunding is not a panacea for businesses that are tight on cash. SCCF has found a way to use the crowdfunding platform for small businesses that puts accountability on the owner and the backers get their money returned. Kiva Zip Loan enables individual lenders around the world to ‘crowd fund’ interest-free loans directly to small business owners and entrepreneurs in the U.S. SCCF is a trustee of Kiva Zip, meaning we have the ability to endorse borrowers who seek financing through Kiva Zip. For more information on this, visit


  •  SCCF’s newest venture allows us build a deeper community relationship, as well as keep our dollars local. SCCF, with support from DHCD, has launched a local investing project. Why invest locally? Invest local is the simple choice to place some of our investments in local businesses, neighbors or communities. From crowdsourcing to peer-to-peer loans to joint investment clubs, there are many ways to keep our money local. Some of the reasons why individuals are choosing to invest in their local businesses and neighborhoods include building a strong local economy, supporting friends and neighbors and aligning values with investments.  Take a look at our newly-launched website at for more information on the project.

Small businesses make our towns amazing places to live. It is up to us to be creative and innovative in finding ways to help them thrive. I would love to hear your thoughts on ways to get access to capital for our business!


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