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Tag: Work Plan

CMSC Webinar: Main Street Management 101

CMSC Webinar

Main Street Management 101

Webinar Summary

Creating and maintaining a vibrant Main Street is a commitment. It does not happen overnight and requires consistent attention and management. There are many moving parts – stakeholders with different agendas, external market and economic factors out of your control, and limited resources. The good news is there is model that has been replicated across the country for decades to help guide your initiatives and priorities.

This webinar gives you a high-level overview of the Main Street Management Four Point Approach and ideas on how you can start implementing the approach into your Main Street.


Presentation Highlights

  • Origins of the Four Points of Main Street Management

    In the late 1970s the National Trust for Historic Preservation developed a pilot program designed to address the neglect and demolition of historic downtowns. They discovered that downtowns had lost their value in these four distinct areas: economic value, physical value, social value, and civic value. This loss of value was attributed to land use policy, the rise of autos, and suburban sprawl.

    This Main Street Approach was developed to address the restoration of these values simultaneously by providing a framework to guide revitalization efforts.

    Every community and commercial district are different, with its own distinctive assets and sense of place, but the Main Street Approach provides a practical, adaptable framework for downtown transformation that is tailored to local conditions.

    The four points of Main Street management are:

    • Organization
    • Economic Vitality
    • Design
    • Promotion
  • Organization

    Goal – Restore civic value through:

    • Building leadership and strong organizational capacity
    • Ensuring broad community engagement
    • Forging partnerships across sectors

    Aspects of Organization

    • Community Stakeholder Support:
      • Are community stakeholders in consensus on the vision for the downtown?
      • Is the municipality actively supporting Main Street through resource allocation?
      • Resource: Spotlight on Main in Torrington
    • Public Safety
      • Is public safety involved as a revitalization partner?
    • Board of Directors or Advisory Board
      • Is there an active, diverse Board of Directors?
    • Strategic Planning and Work Plan
      • Is a work plan regularly updated to align with a current strategic plan for Main Street?
    • Funding
      • Are there multiple revenue streams to support Main Street revitalization?
    • Financial Management
      • Are financial management best practices followed?
    • Administration
      • Is there full-time, paid dedicated staff person to Main Street?
    • Volunteers
      • Is there a volunteer management strategy in place?
    • Demonstrating Impact
      • Are accomplishments regularly communicated to stakeholders?
    • Messaging and Outreach
      • Are multiple communication channels consistently used to update stakeholders and promote activity?
  • Economic Vitality

    Goal – Restore economic value through:

    • Build a diverse economic base
    • Catalyze smart new investment
    • Cultivate a strong entrepreneurship ecosystem

    Aspects of Economic Vitality

    • District Knowledge & Data
      • Have you documented your Main Street assets?
    • Historic Preservation
      • Is there a historic preservation ethos?
    • Housing
      • Does your zoning support the development of housing downtown?
    • Vacant Storefronts and Lots
    • Property Owner Engagement
      • Are your property owners regularly engaged?
    • Attracting Development
      • Do you have a “one-stop-shop” approach for developers and other Main Street investors?
    • Small Business Support & Ecosystem
      • How are your small businesses supported?
    • Recruiting Business
      • Do you have a strategic plan to recruit businesses based on needs and wants of the community?
  • Design

    Goal – Restore physical value through:

    • Creating an inviting, inclusive atmosphere
    • Celebrating historic and unique character
    • Fostering accessible, people-centered public spaces

    Aspects of Design

    • Building façades/Historic Preservation
      • What is the condition of your building façades?
    • Bike Lanes & Public Transit
      • How can people travel to and get around in your Main Street?
    • Sidewalks & Crosswalks
      • What is the condition and uses of your sidewalks?
    • Green Spaces
      • Are your green spaces appropriately maintained?
    • Parking
      • Are you promoting your parking options?
    • Public Art
      • Is public art used to activate Main Street?
    • Lighting
    • Graffiti & Litter Removal
      • How is Main Street kept clean?
    • Signage
      • Is your downtown signage easy to read and in good condition?
    • Window Displays
      • Do your downtown businesses have attractive window displays?
  • Promotion

    Goal – Restore social value through:

    • Marketing district’s defining assets
    • Communicating unique features through storytelling
    • Supporting buy-local experience

    Aspects of Promotion

    • Attitudes and Perceptions
    • Branding and Positioning
      • Do you have consistent, strategic branding that uniquely positions your community?
    • Retail Promotions
      • Do you host or facilitate activities that highlight goods and services offered by your downtown businesses?
    • Special Events
      • Do you host strategic special events to draw in large crowds and visitors?

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Other Resources

About Presenter Kristen Lopez

Kristen M. Lopez is Connecticut Main Street Center’s Education & Training Director. With over 11 years of experience in economic development from various roles and industries across the United States, she has always worked with adults to achieve their goals through education. Kristen is an AmeriCorps VISTA Volunteer alum, a StartingBloc Fellow, and Next City Vanguard Fellow. She holds a bachelor’s degree in finance from Messiah University.

Contact Info

Connect with Kristen via email or phone.

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CMSC Case Study: The Beatrice, NE, Approach to Defeating Negativity

CMSC Case Study

The Beatrice, NE Approach to Defeating Negativity

Webinar Summary

The community of Beatrice, Nebraska was struggling with negative perceptions and apathy after years of economic setbacks. Community leaders needed to take action to push back against the perception of negativity and defeatism.

In 2015, they came together and developed a plan to help facilitate change. By 2018, Beatrice was named the #1 micropolitan community in Nebraska—#14 nationally—for large scale (mostly manufacturing) economic development projects by Site Selection Magazine. Now, post-COVID Beatrice is working to gain back the momentum they had been building.

In this webinar, Michael Sothan, the Executive Director of Main Street Beatrice, shares the journey of changing the perception of Beatrice and six lessons learned along the way.

Presentation Highlights


  • The Problem

    Beatrice struggled for decades with the loss of jobs and businesses, a stagnating population, and a dilapidated downtown.

    Around 2013, an opinion piece in the local newspaper called out the town’s apathy as the root of the town’s decline around the same time a building downtown collapsed in on itself. The coincidence of these events became a defining moment for leaders of Beatrice to come together and actively fight against negativity and apathy.

  • The Solution

    Main Street, City government, the Chamber of Commerce, economic development, and public schools came together to create a plan to aggressively take on the negativity.

    The plan included a rebranding, façade improvement, and other projects. As a result:

    • Downtown Beatrice is home to over 180 businesses, a net gain of 31 shops since 2016. 
    • In the last 5 years, they have had more than 100 improvement projects totaling $12.5 million in investments.
  • Lessons Learned

    The first six lessons were included in the original case study article posted on Main Street America, lessons 7-10 CMSC added from observation. 

    1. Find the Forest through the Trees – Don’t get caught up in the day-to-day tasks of your work but keep focused on the big picture.
    2. Work Together (and think holistically) – The Public Schools were engaged to join the traditional economic development stakeholders. They had the deepest connections to Beatrice’s youth and the school system is a leading factor when people are considering making Beatrice their permanent home. The schools were experiencing the apathy firsthand, among students, staff, and in the community; they had also had a series of failed bond issues for a new elementary facility. They got involved to help role out the brand imagery, they incorporated it into their own uses school system-wide and helped Beatrice disseminate the message to and through the kids so it could get back home.
    3. Make a Plan
    4. Start Taking Action – No matter how small, action builds momentum. Something as simple as paint can make a big difference.
    5. Know that Set-Backs & Burnout Will Happen
    6. Be Honest & Positive – As economic development professionals, it’s easier to see potential and positivity because it is your job. However, most people do not see that. Being overtly positive and not recognizing the negativity will not be accepted by the community as authentic or trustworthy. Remember, perception is reality.
    7. Be Aggressive – Michael Sothan in his webinar presentation used words like “fight” and “go to war” to describe the level of commitment and effort to turn Beatrice around. It’s not a passive undertaking to tackle a declining town.
    8. Focus on People – Beatrice took the approach that only we can save our town. They knew they couldn’t wait for some investment, some grant, some outsider to save their city. Beatrice leaders realized it’s the people who own the businesses and buildings that will change the city.
    9. Always Tell Your Story – You can never get tired of telling your story because there is always someone who hasn’t caught the vision or seen the progress. Michael tells the story of speaking to a group of retired teachers who were so fixated on what used to be downtown that they didn’t even notice the new businesses and progress that had been made.
    10. Leverage Your Assets – For Beatrice’s rebranding effort, they chose a brand around “Stake Your Claim” which pays homage for being nationally recognized as the first homestead. Beatrice is currently rebranding after 10 years and pulling on the pronunciation of their town (Bee-at-trice) with a “Be @…” campaign.

View the Recording


Other Resources


About Michael Sothan

Michael Sothan is the Executive Director of Main Street Beatrice in Beatrice Nebraska (pop 12,300).  He has been with Main Street Beatrice since 2013 and has been a part of Downtown Beatrice’s efforts to become listed on the National Register of Historic Places, undertake façade improvement programs, and regularly guides downtown improvements, events, and economic development efforts.

Michael is a graduate of the University of Nebraska at Kearney. He resides in Steele City, NE (population 60) where he and his wife Megan have purchased an 1890’s grocery store with plans for its rehabilitation.  Michael enjoys living history interpretation and the outdoors when not working on community development efforts.

Contact Info

Main Street Beatrice

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CMSC Webinar: Building Your Volunteer Program

CMSC Webinar

Building Your Volunteer Program:
Feeding the HUMAN Machine & Building the HUMAN Capacity

Webinar Summary

In order to drive a community forward, each organization must foster, maintain, and perfect the available human capacity within each community. In this webinar, we dive into strategies for creating a comprehensive volunteer matrix, how to maximize efforts for volunteers, and how appropriate positive (or sometimes negative) feedback should be delivered. Topics include how to create a comprehensive volunteer list, how to partner volunteers together, and where and how to utilize critical volunteers. This webinar is also applicable to those who have volunteer boards and commissions.

Presentation Highlights


  • The Human Machine

    • A community functions like a watch – all the cogs need to work together in the right sequence. The downtown is run by people.
    • People need the ability to help, as well as the drive and desire to do it. This human capacity is the driving force behind any volunteer organization, whether it’s a Masonic Lodge, city council or downtown organization.
    • It also helps set the expectations for volunteers, what they can give, and what they can expect to get back from their service. Everyone needs to know their role, which will also help you leverage their talents and skills and avoid burnout.
  • 6 Types of Human Capacity

    • As a Main Street manager, it’s not your job to do every project. It’s your job to empower people to help you implement the projects. You’re here to guide and provide resources, not do every job that comes up. The process isn’t linear, its cyclical and ongoing and has 6 components:
      1. Community Assessment
      2. Identifying Abilities
      3. Planning Roles
      4. Building a strong “house”
      5. Empowerment through partnership
      6. Implementing projects
  • Working with your Community as a Machine

    • Outlining a 2-way relationship is critical. What is the volunteer getting out of it?
    • When you do the Community Assessment, it’s like an audit where you can identify skills gaps. This is a great task for someone joining your Organization board or committee. It helps them understand how you work, while offering a fresh pair of eyes on the data.
    • When identifying abilities, you may need to have tough discussions with people because you may not need the skills they’re offering. Also look at when your volunteers are available. Do they have kids in school and so are not available at night? Do they work during the day and are only available on the weekend?
    • Many people want to do something different than their day job. You need to help them figure out their role, as well as who to hand off things to. You’re aiming to have seamless transitions between them.
    • Build a matrix of skills, availability, etc. Then you can pair people up, creating little “families” of volunteers.

    Working With Your Community As A Machine

    • Main Street needs to empower through leadership, not by doing everything on their own. Build capacity through responsibility and let people know where they fit into the overall process.
    • When you implement the project, this is the time to give positive and constructive criticism. It’s also a time to re-evaluate your volunteer to see if anything’s changed.
  • Strategies for Improving the Machine

    • Create a social network map – Take your 20 core volunteers and map all the different groups in your community – everything from the PTA to the local bank.
    • What demographics are represented? Which are missing? What do they love to do and what are they good at? What’s motivating them to volunteer and to be part of the community? Remember, sometimes what people are good at is not what they’re looking to do when they’re volunteering.
    • Do an assessment to determine your volunteers’ strengths and weaknesses. Are they introverts or extroverts?
      • Can categorize people by Seer, Feeler, Thinker & Doers
        • Seer – learn or share by showing
        • Feelers – Likes to do something over and over
        • Thinkers – Likes data and putting things on paper
        • Doers – Do whatever needs to be done
      • Create a comprehensive volunteer list. Can be as short as 10 questions asking:
        • What they prefer
        • When they’re available (day, evening)
        • How they would like to volunteer
        • Where they’re comfortable
        • Can then sort the list and use it to ask for targeted help.
      • 2 Way benefit – to the volunteer and to the Main Street organization
        • Benefits to the Volunteer
          • Personal connections
          • Strengthened and vibrant downtown
          • Sense of accomplishment and belonging
          • Vested in the overall community’s health
        • Benefits to the Main Street program
          • Improved amounts of volunteers and participants
          • Vested residents or business owners
          • Increased networking and economic draw
        • These relationships don’t just start on day 1, they need to be cultivated. The Main Street director or manager usually needs to be the first to take the initial step.
        • You need to give continuous and personalized feedback and praise.
        • Conduct anonymous assessments to get feedback from the public.

View the Recording


About Ben Levenger, AICP

Ben Levenger is an AICP planner, registered landscape architect, and Certified Economic Developer. He is the president of Downtown Redevelopment Services, LLC, a planning firm specializing in assisting communities through comprehensive downtown planning. He has worked in over 30 states and consults for federal agencies on economic development best practices.

Contact

Ben Levenger, AICP

Email: Ben@dtredevelopment.com

Cell: 330-212-2260 

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