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V.4.1 Disaster Planning

V.4.1 Disaster Planning

Action

Develop a Disaster Plan, specific for Main Street district businesses, in collaboration with public safety, public health, economic development and other municipal departments.

Why

Our Main Streets and town centers are often our economic engines, our gathering places, our access to goods and services…the lifeblood of the community. Having a plan in place for unexpected disasters can prevent or mitigate impacts to our community, including Main Street businesses. This plan will provide resiliency and allow businesses and the community to bounce back more quickly. 

How

  • Obtain samples of disaster, hazard or resiliency plans from other communities to use as a reference. 
  • Explore opportunities for technical assistance and partnership with your region’s Council of Governments’ Hazard Mitigation Plan, SustainableCT and Resilient Connecticut – CIRCA. 
  • Hold a workshop with Main Street stakeholders, emergency services, public safety, public health, economic development, and other municipal departments to discuss and draft the Disaster Plan.
  • Include topics such as mitigation, natural disaster, technology loss, pandemic, relocation options, resources and communication plan.
  • Include what financial resources would be available to help the business(es) with continuity.

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V.3.5 Recruiting Businesses

V.3.5 Recruiting Businesses

Action

Create a plan for recruiting businesses that considers community input and market trends and that communicates a clear “wish list” of desired businesses. 

Why

A recruiting plan will help everyone involved stay on track and work together to create a vibrant, diverse and intentional mix of businesses in your district. Maybe your Main Street is looking to stand out from the rest, provide certain types of entertainment or services, embrace and market a certain niche or business cluster. Developing this plan will help ensure success in accomplishing district goals. 

How

  • Initiate a community engagement workshop to review available market studies and community plans and understand the district’s assets and desires. Develop a “wish list” of businesses.
  • With input from property owners, real estate brokers and developers, develop and carry out a business recruiting plan. 
  • Hold stakeholder engagement sessions at least quarterly, ongoing. 
  • Review the plan and update market studies periodically to understand new trends and assets.

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V.3.4 Small Business Ecosystem of Support

V.3.4 Small Business Ecosystem of Support

Action

Establish a strong channel of business support including training, technical assistance, regular networking opportunities. 

Why

Small
business
technical
assistance and support programs can be
a
linchpin that
ensures
a strong economic
foundation
in
your district and create financially
stronger
business
enterprises.

Then those enterprises create
jobs, generate
income
and
investment
and attract and retain needed community goods and services. Most businesses benefit from technical assistance, help with developing a strong business plan and obtaining financing. Networking opportunities allow businesses to be natural mentors to each other, bounce ideas off of one another, identify challenges that are unique to the district, cross market programs, products and services and more.

How

  1. Develop programs and partnerships to provide consistent training and 1:1 technical assistance to small business owners.
  2. Hold community merchant meetings at least quarterly to build community and connections.
  3. Share information about additional business resources and referrals regularly with your local businesses and be sure that the information is available upon request.

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V.3.3 Local Incentives and Financial Support

V.3.3 Local Incentives and Financial Support

Action

Establish grant, incentive, and/or loan programs such as microloans, facade improvement programs or energy assistance small businesses can access year round.

Why

Providing local incentives and financial support for businesses makes your Main Street more competitive and sustainable. Often small businesses are just starting out and can utilize these incentives to buy equipment or make other code related upgrades, cover startup costs or fix up their storefronts or facades. Grants, loan programs and other incentives are a great way to catalyze neighborhoods and accomplish the changes the district wants to see. Developing your own local programs allows you to tailor the incentives in a way that works best for your district. 

How

  1. Brainstorm with your community, district, Main Street stakeholders. Ask, “What is it we are trying to achieve? What is our vision?”
  2. Utilize your vision, community plans, market studies or other information gathered to help you choose which incentives you’ll offer. 
  3. Know where your annual funds come from. Tools such as Tax Increment Financing, ongoing Loan Programs and Municipal Budget lines provide continuity and resilience for your Main Street district. 
  4. Support your district with local grant programs for upgrades like facade improvement, expansion, start up expenses, relocation, equipment or marketing efforts.  These could be in partnership with local banks.
  5. Provide easy access to information about other public or private financial supports.

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V.3.2 Merchant Engagement

V.3.2 Merchant Engagement

Action

Improve engagement with your district’s merchants.

Why

Merchants are critical stakeholders in your downtown district. In the ideal world, merchants are partners and collaborators. Negative or apathetic merchants can be detrimental to the progress of a district. The goal here is to develop strong relationships with your merchants. You want to engage with them regularly and consistently, not just when you want something or have a problem.

How

Tactics to help build relationships with your merchants:

  • Send a quarterly newsletter specific to merchants
  • “Walk the streets” to meet with merchants one-on-one on Main Street
  • Have a least one merchant be on your Board of Directors or Advisory Board
  • If you have a star merchant, work them to influence other merchants

Resources

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V.3.1 Small Business Resources

V.3.1 Small Business Resources

Action

Provide a “one-stop-shop” for business owners where they can have easy access to community regulations, permit processes and all necessary contact information. 

Why

Providing business owners with the experience of a “one stop shop” makes your Main Street and your community all that much more appealing. This is often the first experience they’ll have with you and  their success will be supported by what you provide to them in these early stages. 

How

  • Decide who your main contact is for business owners. Who will shepherd them through the process from concept to grand opening? 
  • Create a Support Team and provide contact information (phone and email) for the team. This would include municipal staff that will review permit applications, as well as state and local departments and organizations that administer technical assistance and economic incentives. 
  • Be sure all information is available online in one central location including:
    • Economic Incentives
    • Zoning Regulations/Ordinances
    • Permitting
    • Demographics
    • Market Trends
    • Department Contacts information
    • Business technical assistance program resources

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V.2.6 Attracting Development and Business

V.2.6 Attracting Development and Business

Action

Provide a warm welcome for developers and businesses by making it easy to access information regarding community vision, regulations, permitting, available economic incentives and demographics.

Why

Be stage setters! You want developers and businesses to invest in, and become part of, your Main Street community! Giving them the experience of a “one stop shop” makes your Main Street and your community all that much more appealing. This is often the first experience they’ll have with you and  their success will be supported by what you provide to them in these early stages.

How

  1. Be clear and intentional with the community’s (or Main Street’s) plan or vision. Communicate that vision so developers and businesses know what you’re looking for. 
  2. Create economic incentives and update zoning regulations and permitting processes to remove barriers for businesses and developers
  3. Make information easily accessible online for developers and businesses
  4. Delegate a point person to coordinate the process for permitting and approvals

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V.2.3 Inventory of Vacant Storefronts

V.2.3 Inventory of Vacant Storefronts

Action

Develop a plan for programming and filling vacant storefronts.

Why

Programming storefronts engages the community and drives foot traffic to the downtown and helps create a dynamic, positive environment, even when there are vacancies. Filling those vacant storefronts increases property values, increases foot traffic, builds local economic value, provides necessary and desired goods and services and ensures the vibrancy the community is looking for.

How

Developing an inventory of vacant storefronts, that includes notes about ownership, available space, and other pertinent information is a good first step. It may also be helpful to utilize real estate listings and do a walking tour to identify vacant properties. Working with the landlord and other nearby businesses, utilize the vacancy inventory to make a plan for programming and filling vacancies. Other natural partners are the local Arts Council, Economic Development Commission and Chamber of Commerce.

  1. Complete a Main Street Market Analysis
  2. Write down your “wish list” of businesses desired in vacant storefronts in line with the market analysis
  3. Create engaging window displays and/or are programmed with pop up events
  4. Encourage owners to prepare vacant space to “vanilla box” ready for future tenants
  5. Make incentives, such as local grants, available to property owners and businesses for facade and interior improvements or to cover other business start up costs

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V.2.2 Inventory of Vacant Lots

V.2.2 Inventory of Vacant Lots

Action

Develop a plan for maintaining, programming and reusing vacant lots. 

Why

Cleaning, maintaining, programming and developing vacant properties can completely transform a space. Taking this action can increase the feeling of safety, reduce negative perception, invite people to spend more time in our Main Street areas and will further encourage investment in our communities. 

How

Creating an inventory of vacant parcels, that includes notes about ownership, size, known environmental contamination and other pertinent information is a good first step. The local municipal Assessors Office and Land Use Office may be a resource for this information. It may also be helpful to utilize real estate listings and do a walking tour to identify vacant properties. Other natural partners are the local departments of Public Works, Parks and Recreation, Arts Council, Economic Development Commission and Chamber of Commerce. Together a community can prioritize properties, then create a plan and budget to clean, maintain, program and reuse vacant properties.

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V.2.5 Property Owner Engagement

V.2.5 Property Owner Engagement

Action

Improve engagement with your district’s property owners.

Why

Property owners are critical stakeholders in your downtown district. In the ideal world, property owners are partners and collaborators. Absentee, apathetic, or confrontational property owners can be detrimental to the progress of a district. The goal here is to develop strong relationships with your property owners. You want to engage with them regularly and consistently, not just when you want something or have a problem.

It’s also been shown that when people have access to a quality downtown housing, they thrive in other areas of their life, such as work opportunities. This is especially true if their housing is located near transit, the kind commonly found in a downtown, for instance the CTfastrak rapid bus station in New Britain, or the Hartford Line train station in downtown Windsor Locks.

How

Tactics to help build relationships with your property owners:

  • Send a quarterly newsletter specific to property owners
  • “Walk the streets” to meet with property owners one-on-one on Main Street
  • Have a least one property owner be on your Board of Directors or Advisory Board
  • If you have a star property owner, work them to influence other property owners

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P.O. Box 270, Hartford, CT 06141 | 860.280.2337