In a time of tight public budgets and program cuts, the most important task a publicly-funded program can do is show results. Bring people downtown, attract private investment, increase sales and fill vacancies; i.e. increase the tax base. These are the hard, quantifiable outcomes that a Main Street program should be working toward and that help to make the case for continued funding.
There are other, softer outcomes, such as creating an attractive place that is welcoming and pleasant, increasing civic involvement, pride, cultural exchanges and generational engagement, but all of these really lead to the aforementioned “countable” achievements. The key is to focus on the accomplishments. Instead of thinking, “We can’t do that because we don’t have any money,” an effective Main Street initiative will realize, “We don’t have any money because we don’t do enough.”
The Daily News Record of Harrisonburg, VA recently held their annual “Best of the Valley” competition. Along with the standard categories like “Ice Cream” (Kline’s Dairy Bar), “Outdoor Dining” (Dave’s Downtown Taverna) and “Live Music Venue” (Clementine), the paper has one called “Best Use of Taxpayer Money.” See the complete listing here.
For the second year in a row, Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance (HDR), the local Main Street organization, won the “Best Use of Taxpayer Money” hands down. To win this two years in a row shows that it is no fluke or lucky timing. It is a mark of the success HDR has had and continues to have using a comprehensive and incremental approach to engaging the community in the downtown revitalization efforts.