Downtown leaders cover Main Street Essentials at Abingdon training

On Sep. 22 and 23, Advance Abingdon hosted 70 downtown revitalization professionals and volunteers from across Virginia for a training and knowledge share of best practices in the organization and promotion of downtown revitalization efforts.

National Trust Main Street Center Senior Program Officer Kathy LaPlante, a nationally recognized expert on community based downtown revitalization, presented specific strategies for organizing local efforts and promoting local businesses in downtown districts. “Communities across the country are working toward creating vibrant, one-of-a-kind downtown districts,” said LaPlante. “We develop and share best practices, such as how to effectively recruit and use volunteers, and how to fund revitalization efforts.”

Other more specific strategies discussed at the session promote the assets unique to each place. For instance a festival that draws people to a downtown in Virginia will be different from one in Wisconsin. “The overall guide to promoting your district,” said LaPlante, “is to be true in character to who you are as a community. No one size fits all.”

In addition to hearing from LaPlante, representatives of local governments, nonprofit organizations, and businesses shared the latest efforts of their home communities with others from around the commonwealth.

Sponsors for the event helped provide a warm welcome and included Michael’s Pharmacy, Mac’s Medical Equipment, Home Nursing Service of Southwest Virginia, Highlands Union Bank, The Office Place, and the Town of Abingdon. Participants took trolley tours, ate a dinner at the Farmer’s Market, attended a reception at A Tailor’s Lodging, and enjoyed lunch on the town.

Virginia Main Street trainings are open to anyone interested in downtown revitalization, and all PowerPoint presentations and notes from the group discussions are available at the Virginia Main Street training archive.