“Booster Rockets” For Downtown Revitalization Momentum

After decades of market preference for suburban development, Main Street and downtowns are hot again! Back in the market, they are once again desirable targets for investment, business startups, expansion, the creative economy, housing, and tourism. So, how do we sustain that momentum, take advantage of the attention, and keep the revitalization progress moving forward?  Our fellow downtown advocates @StrongTowns say communities must keep taking it to the next level without hesitation.

“I like to think of the early, “fun” stages of [revitalization] as the booster rockets on the old space shuttles…they’re necessary to get the things that really matter off the ground and into the atmosphere.  After they do their job, it’s all about making sure you blend that momentum with careful, strategic planning and experience to complete the mission.”

The Cork’s Been Popped…What’s Next For Your City? @StrongTowns

Virginia’s Award Winning Destination Tourism

Governor McAuliffe recently announced that the Virginia Tourism Corporation (VTC) received a national tourism industry award for its work promoting the Virginia Oyster Trail, a new initiative connecting travelers with Virginia’s oyster farms, raw bars, wineries, restaurants, artisans, and downtowns like Urbanna, Cape Charles, and Chincoteague.

VTC was recognized with the prestigious National Council of State Tourism Directors Mercury Award during the U.S. Travel Association’s annual Education Seminar for Tourism Organizations conference. Winning programs serve as models to foster imagination and innovation in the development of future destination programs.

“I am proud of the coalition of partners, both public and private, that are making a difference as we build the new Virginia economy. This award demonstrates that when our state agencies work together, we can make a major impact on the future of our great Commonwealth,” said Governor McAuliffe.

Since its official launch last November, the Virginia Oyster Trail has received significant praise from consumers and has piqued the interest of travelers seeking a unique culinary travel experience. This year, VTC saw a 31 percent increase in visitation to oyster-related content on its website, www.Virginia.org.  Virginia oysters continue to be a major driver for tourism, an industry that is an instant revenue generator for the Commonwealth. Last year, visitors to Virginia spent $23 billion, which supported 222,000 jobs and contributed $1.6 billion in state and local taxes to the Commonwealth.

The Virginia Tourism Corporation partnered with the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development, Shellfish Growers of Virginia, Virginia Seafood Council, Virginia Marine Products Board, and Artisans Center of Virginia, in addition to local tourism offices and planning district commissions, to make the Virginia Oyster Trail project a reality.

To learn more about Virginia oysters and the Oyster Trail, click here.

Downtown Cape Charles, Virginia

Downtown Cape Charles, Virginia

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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Shop Local, Support Local with HuTerra and Virginia Main Street

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Travel Planner Ad, Southern Living, December 2016

There’s no better time to visit Main Street then the holidays. Winter celebrations bring revelers together to enjoy light shows, caroling and special shopping experiences with local merchants. There is a magic to shopping on Main Street that simply doesn’t exist at the mall. We can feel good about our shopping because keeping the cash register ringing at these local stores not only benefits the shop owner but the entire local economy.

This holiday season those benefits are multiplied. From November 15 to December 31, 2016, Virginia Main Street, in partnership with the HuTerra Foundation, will promote both shopping local on Main Street and supporting local nonprofits.  HuTerra is a great supporter of Main Street organizations with a goal to connect small businesses to the community by increasing customer traffic via their mobile app, My HuTerra, available for iOS or Android.

Download the My HuTerra app, pick your favorite nonprofit, and play the “Holidays on Main” game.  When you visit the local merchants at participating Virginia Main Street communities during the holidays, simply “check in” for a chance to win a gift basket or $5000 for your favorite nonprofit.  By shopping locally you can help HuTerra give away $50,000 to nonprofits throughout Virginia!

No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another. – Charles Dickens

 Learn more and download My HuTerra >>

 

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

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.

 

Embracing Nature, Culture and History: Appalachia’s new economy

All across Southwest Virginia, the stories of men and women who worked in mines, furniture factories or textile mills can be read in the buildings you see today. In the coalfields, mining towns and camps sprang up wherever the coal seam led. Miners came from farms nearby, from the deep South and from Eastern Europe to earn the money that mining brought. Communities were self-contained. People shared their lives in schools, athletic teams, churches and shopping in the company store. Music was a bond and sometimes the only common language.

Photo from: http://myswva.org/

Photo from: http://myswva.org/

Brooke Jarvis’ recent post titled: 3 Lessons for Appalachia’s Post-Coal Economy, addresses the very pertinent question of “what happens when Appalachia is coal country no more?”

Brooke mentions the efforts of local, grassroots organizations that are “working to reform old industries and promote more sustainable ones, to build local entrepreneurial capacity and to make sure the region’s resources benefit residents over the long haul.”

In Virginia and all throughout Appalachia, there are ongoing efforts to build more diverse and resilient economies that take advantage of the rich cultural history and breathtaking natural resources the region has to offer.  

Photo from: http://myswva.org/

Photo from: http://myswva.org/

The Crooked Road, Virginia’s Heritage Music Trail includes 10 counties, three cities, 10 towns, five regional planning districts, four state agencies, two tourism organizations and a large number of music venues. Although the trail is focused on the uniqueness and vitality of this region’s heritage music, it also includes outdoor recreational activities, museums, crafts and historic and cultural programs. ‘Round the Mountain has focused its efforts to promote sustainable economic development of the region’s communities by assisting local artisans with marketing, educational and entrepreneurial opportunities. These great initiatives are part of a larger strategy to reinvigorate the economies of Virginia.  The Southwest Virginia website is a great resource for everything related to this region.

Plan your trip and come learn about the people who lived in coal camps and company towns. See photos and quilts, listen to stories and oral histories, visit churches, cemeteries and museums in towns across our region and visit the buildings and communities which remain bear witness to our rich history.

Photo from: http://myswva.org/

Photo from: http://myswva.org/