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!

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We’re unveiling more info for Downtown Intersections 2017!


More to come!


 

Downtown Intersections – Winchester – July 10-12, 2017

 

Virginia Main Street 2017 Merit Awards – Nominations are Open!

Downtown Intersections is just 62 days away! Virginia Main Street staff has been working hard to craft an agenda, secure speakers, develop walking tours and workshops that will educate, inspire, and empower our communities.

Now we need your help to recognize achievement, innovation, and success in our Main Street communities. The Virginia Main Street 2017 Merit Awards are officially open!

Download the forms today and nominate your best volunteer, your favorite new public space, or your most successful retail promotion from July 1, 2016, to June 30, 2017. Winners will be recognized at a special awards breakfast at Downtown Intersections on Wednesday, July 12th at the George Washington Hotel. You won’t want to miss it!

2017 VMS Merit Award Nominations (pdf)

2017 VMS Merit Award Nominations (word)

 

 

Downtown Intersections 2017!

Virginia Main Street is happy (and excited) to announce that registration for Downtown Intersections 2017 is officially open! We will be in Winchester from Monday, July 10th through Wednesday, July 12th at the beautiful George Washington Hotel.

Join us on Monday for an intensive board training. This is  designed to provide your board with the background knowledge, skills and tools to move your Main Street organization forward in a quickly changing world. Specially designed for Main Street boards, the principles of proper board governance are tailored to provide immediate impact. Consider sending 3 or more board members; group discounts available.

Monday afternoon will also bring walking tours of Winchester’s historic downtown and local gems such as the Shenandoah Valley Discovery Museum. After the training and tours wrap up we will wind down with a welcome reception at Winchester Brew Werks.

Tuesday and Wednesday will be educational, inspirational, and empowering.  Sessions include downtown trends, resources for design projects and business development initiatives, in-real-life examples from communities who are innovating, and the opportunity to be hands on with branding and retailing workshops, as well as DIY market analysis for your district.

Virginia Main Street wants to see as many of our communities, stakeholders, board members, program coordinators, economic developers, building owners, business owners, entrepreneurs, and downtown revitalization fans in Winchester as possible. Please contact our office for financial assistance or group discounts.

See you in July!

A Tale of Two Community Engagement Events

As an inherently grassroots movement, effective community engagement is an essential component of any successful Main Street program. Without it, organization’s cannot effectively plan their work, recruit volunteers and board members, promote the district, or communicate impact. Main Street must be community driven.

This week I had the opportunity to participate in two very different community engagement events organized by Main Street organizations. One was an informal and ongoing, with a minimal agenda but strong interaction and conversation. The other was a highly planned, one-time “idea pop-up” that was focused on activity, imagination, and a critical mass of feedback from the community at large.

SDDA Monthly Round Table at Farmhouse Kitchen and Wares

Staunton Downtown Development Association has instituted monthly round-table discussions that draw about 25 stakeholders. Held in the evening at local restaurants, it is an opportunity for the board and staff to introduce specific topics to the public, get feedback, generate ideas, and impart information. The format and feel are informal and conversational, with new topics every month.

A small piece of HDR’s Idea Incubator

By contrast, Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance held an interactive idea pop-up event that drew hundreds of enthusiastic participants over a three hour period. There were multiple stations for idea generation, sharing, comment, and creativity. This included an idea incubator, a pin board of urban design, mad-libs for visioning, and a physical chat room where the public could visit with board members to brainstorm together in real time.

I was blown away by both events – the energy, the participants, the enthusiasm, the snacks! Look for both Julie (Staunton) and Andrea (Harrisonburg) to walk us through their planning, their events, the impacts, and the outcomes in future blogs.

If your community wants to up its engagement game contact Virginia Main Street.

Rev Up Fund Development: Strategic. Sustainable. Successful.

Are your revenue strategies working for your Main Street nonprofit?  How do you enhance those strategies for a prosperous (and profitable) future?

On March  20, 22, and 28 in Berryville, Danville, and Abingdon, the spring edition of the Regional Rev Up promises to load your Main Street program with the tools you need to create sustainable and successful fund development strategies.


Whether you are focusing on facade improvements, training your retailers, or developing a new website, running a successful Main Street program means raising money. But more than just fundraising, organizations need to build and cultivate relationships, show value to current and potential donors, understand their organizational strengths and weaknesses, and properly evaluate their events and activities.

Fund Development is more than raising money; it is the strategic positioning of an organization to sustain and grow its resources through relationship building.  Creating a shared vision, clear mission, creative strategies and effective communications help sustain and ensure the success of the organization.

Join the Virginia Main Street staff to learn components of a Fund Development Plan emphasizing partnership, ownership and results, including:

  • The difference between fund development and fundraising;
  • Board roles and responsibilities in fundraising;
  • How to assess and build your organization’s readiness for fund development; and
  • The importance of diversifying income to withstand losing an event or major donor.

Registration is free. Lunch will cost $15 and is only payable by cash on site at the event.  Registration for each Rev Up session closes one week prior to the event, so register now to reserve your spot!

Register now >>

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Can-Do Spirit Equals Success

Small rural communities often get discouraged either because they feel they are “too small” to make effectual changes in a slow economy or the revitalization needs of the community just seem too overwhelming. Not so for the inspirational town of Water Valley, Mississippi. According to this article, a couple who fell in love with the people in this small town decided to invest in the community and its businesses. Through a cooperative effort from other local investors, they now have a brewery, art gallery and a coding school for students.

“I think the biggest thing that has changed here is the attitude about what’s possible,” says Howley. “I think there’s really a can-do spirit and we’re going to do it ourselves. If you wait for someone to help you, it will never happen.”

Town Square Center for the Arts, Glade Spring, VA

Town Square Center for the Arts, Glade Spring, VA

Glade Spring, Virginia has a population of about 1,500. A few years ago, a small community of volunteers came together to form a non-profit named Project Glade. With only a $1,000 allocation from Town Council each year and a strong volunteer ethic, Project Glade is able to paint buildings, replace landscaping and vegetation, and complete other small improvement projects. The group also applied for Virginia Tobacco Commission and Appalachian Regional Commission funding in 2012 to rehabilitate an old bank building in the middle of their downtown. It now serves as the Town Square Center for the Arts and houses six artist in residence.

“Success doesn’t come to you, you go to it.” –Marva Collins