What are you doing this weekend? Spend it on Main Street!

The weather is starting to turn the corner from Winter to Spring (right? please?) and you might find yourself struck with spring fever! So what’s the cure? A day trip to one of Virginia’s beautiful Main Streets! There is literally something for everyone happening around the state, and here is a sampling of what is going on this weekend on Main Street…

Thursday, March 8th

Friday, March 9th

  • Start you weekend with a trip to Manassas to see a performance of Swan Lake.
  • Inspired to dance yourself? Head to Bristol and join the Bristol Ballet for Latin and ballroom dance lessons!

Saturday, March 10th 

Sunday, March 11th

or..Restaurant Week!

Advertisements

Save the Date! Downtown Intersections 2018

VMS-intersection-final

 

 

The District Digest Vol. 3 – Downtown Ideas to Put to Work

Virginia Main Street staff spends a lot of time on the road. One trip might take you from Richmond to Berryville to Bristol – all in one day (true story). That is a lot of miles logged and a lot of down time behind the wheel. How do we stay awake, and maybe even spend the time productively? Podcasts!

There are podcasts for every interest that will inspire, educate, and entertain. Here are a few essentials for nonprofits, leadership, and entrepreneurs that Main Streeters will love!

  1. The Harvard Business Review IdeaCast is a “weekly podcast featuring the leading thinkers in business and management.” Don’t be intimidated by the Harvard part, or thrown by the Business part. There is something here for everyone interested in personal and professional development.
  2. Hosted by Dr. Rob Harter, the NonProfit Leadership Podcast features strategies and stories from seasoned nonprofit professionals. Check out the episode with the Fundraising Coach!
  3. Classy is quickly becoming a go-to in the nonprofit world, with practical guides and resources for Social Media Marketing and Successful Fundraisers, and their podcast is another great offering. It is billed as “Stories of People Who Stand for Something” and focuses on the stories of nonprofit executives who are driving change.
  4. The Main Street Entrepreneur will help you to understand your small businesses and help you think entrepreneurially as well. Topics include “Develop Your Supporting Cast” and “Maximize All Available Resources.”
  5. Talking About Cities “unearths innovative ideas for making cities successful” and comes to us from the Kresge Foundation, whose mission is Expanding Opportunities in America’s Cities.

And don’t miss Main Street America’s CEO Patrice Frey talking to Larry Lucas on “Refreshing Main Street!”

Do you have a podcast that inspires you in your community revitalization work? One that has provided valuable guidance for your organization, or inspiration for your programming? Let us know!

Virginia is for Entrepreneurs!

Governor McAuliffe and Senator Warner recently announced a new initiative to match Virginia entrepreneurs with investors, called “Virginia is for Entrepreneurs” (VA4E). This initiative includes a new website (va4e.org) that includes a standardized online application to better link entrepreneurs with more than 50 investment firms and potential funders to help launch or grow their Virginia-based businesses.

Any Virginia business can join the network, whether it is a farmer in Southwest Virginia or a high-tech startup in Northern Virginia. The network will provide resources and connect them with investors looking for opportunities to fund businesses across regions, backgrounds, and industries.

Interested investors can also join at the website, which will connect them with other like-minded investors, as well as provide them with opportunities to support entrepreneurs. Partners in the network include a number of universities, angel investment groups, venture funds, and statewide organizations.

According to Governor McAuliffe, “the Virginia is for Entrepreneurs initiative will open new doors for local start-ups by increasing access to the capital they need to thrive and create good-paying jobs.”

View the governor’s press release regarding this initiative here.

BEE Innovation Day 2017

The Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) will be holding a Building Entrepreneurial Economies (BEE) Innovation Day on Wednesday, December 6, in Charlottesville, VA. Community leaders and small business enthusiasts will discuss innovative ideas in entrepreneurship development, as well as offer inspiration and education to plan for and create a vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem in their communities.

Our panel of experts and educational topics include:

  • Trends in Entrepreneurship – Mike Lenox, The Darden School, UVA
  • Building Partnerships for an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem – Annette Patterson, The Advancement Foundation
  • Thinking Entrepreneurially both Internally and Externally – Martin Kaszubowski, The Center for Enterprise Innovation, ODU
  • Resources for Entrepreneurs – David Touve, i.Lab at UVA
  • The Gig Economy: The Next Generation of Work – Larkin Garbee, 804RVA

Attendees will have the opportunity to discuss various aspects of DHCD’s Building Entrepreneurial Economies (BEE) and Community Business Launch (CBL) programs with some our past grantees, and to tour the i.Lab facility at UVA.

Register here for the event.

VMS Commercial District Affiliate Grants Now Available!

Virginia Main Street has opened the application process for our first ever Commercial District Affiliate Grants! Affiliate Grants are designed to assist organizations and communities in achieving their downtown revitalization goals and be used for projects or planning purposes.

The maximum grant amount is $7,000 and can be used for…

  • non-profit organizational development;
  • vision/mission development;
  • work plan and budget development;
  • market studies;
  • downtown organization website development;
  • design projects;
  • entrepreneur support projects;
  • wayfinding system development;
  • economic vitality projects; or
  • other consultant services that will contribute to the historic downtown and for which other funds are not available.

Affiliate grants are available to registered DHCD Commercial District Affiliates and Virginia Downtowns. DHCD invites projects that hold the potential for positive impact on the downtown neighborhood’s long-term goals.

Applications for Affiliate Grants will be due on December 1, 2017, and the projects associated with the applications should be completed in our CAMS system by June 1, 2018. Our grant manual is available here!

Five Things your Economic Vitality Committee can do Today to Support Downtown

In my Virginia Main Street wanderings and conversations with directors I’ve been hearing a common refrain – “What should our Economic Vitality committee be doing?” A thought provoking question that I am sure goes unasked more often than asked. As fate would have it I recently participated in a Hillary Greenberg webinar on supporting small businesses that provided me with a “lightbulb” moment. Sometimes our boards and committees get caught up in thinking big and miss some of the small, every day, right-in-front-of-your-nose kinds of things that could yield big results for the district.

    1. Is your downtown business friendly? The EV committee can review municipal codes, fees, permit processes and timelines – anything that pertains to establishing or growing a business in the Main Street district. Identify anything that would be a detriment to starting a business or fixing a building then work with the municipality on a making the code friendlier to small business.
    2. Help new businesses navigate the permit process. Now that the EV committee has a thorough understanding of all of the local hoops to jump through to open a business downtown, turn that information into a step-by-step guide for new business owners.
    3. Survey retailers and business owners. In person, with a flyer, online – ask the questions. What would help you to improve your business? Have some check boxes –
      • website development?
      • access to capital?
      • cooperative advertising?
      • loan pool?
      • new signage?
    4. Hold Retailer Round Tables. Use those survey responses to generate topics! One month bring in a marketing guru to discuss website content. The next month (or quarter) have the Promotions committee members come to talk about, and get feedback on, upcoming retailing events. Bring in an accountant to give a Quickbooks lesson. Respond to the retailer’s needs to help them grow their businesses.
    5. Create a Mentorship Network. Every district has those retailers and restaurateurs who are knocking it out of the park. Set up a network of successful business owners to work one-on-one with those that are struggling.

 

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but they are ideas that can be quickly assigned and implemented by a motivated EV committee that can make a real difference on the ground.

Does your EV committee do something innovative to improve downtown? We want to hear about it!