Community Business Launch – Jump Start Your Downtown!

Since 2015, 24 communities have participated in DHCD’s Community Business Launch (CBL) program and launched new or expanded businesses in a targeted district of their choice. A systems approach to asset-based, small-business economic development, the CBL program helps communities identify their unique assets and fill vacant storefronts with businesses that best attract and serve its residents.

In 2019, the city of Galax applied for CBL funding to combat a high vacancy rate in their downtown. Like many communities, Galax struggled with a lack of retail variety, sporadic and unreliable business hours, and little enthusiasm among existing downtown business owners.

Galax received 19 applications from local entrepreneurs to participate in the Jump! Galax competition, and ultimately, the city awarded six businesses funding to open downtown. In addition to creating six new businesses, Galax was able to cultivate the enthusiasm and support among business owners they had always hoped to achieve.

Networking and new cohesive relationships have grown between the entrepreneurs and each now has a vested interest in the success of the others. As an example, on Small Business Saturday and on the Saturday before Christmas, one business invited all other participants to set up, display and sell at their location.” – Brenda Marrah, City of Galax Grants Administrator

What is more, Galax was the first community to make the program available in multiple languages and provided an interpreter for businesses that pitched, acknowledging its growing Hispanic population (which makes up 15.3 percent of its 6,625 residents). As a result, a community favorite known for its beef-tongue tacos will be relocating to downtown Galax, in the heart of bluegrass country!

If you have got big plans for your community and are interested in applying for CBL, contact Jessica Hupp at 804-371-7121. The application deadline for fiscal year 2020 has now been extended to April 19, 2019.

View coverage of Galax’s CBL award ceremony here.

Pulaski Invites You to Revitalization Revival

The town of Pulaski is excited to partner with the Virginia Department of Historic Resources to host Revitalization Revival:  A Big Tent Approach to Preservation on May 1-2, 2019, in Historic Downtown Pulaski.  Revitalization Revival will bring together local government leaders, community members, historic property owners and investors to share ideas and learn about the opportunities and challenges facing historic resources throughout Southwest Virginia.

The conference will feature keynote addresses from two leading professionals in historic and cultural heritage preservation.  Kim Trent and Cheryl Hargrove, both experienced nonprofit leaders, will share best practices for engaging community members in preservation initiatives and strategies to market our region’s vast historic and cultural resources.  Other conference sessions will be led by experts from across western Virginia, focusing on a range of issues facing rural and urban communities throughout Southwest Virginia. The preliminary conference program has full session descriptions, event details and a listing of presenters. 

Revitalization Revival provides a unique opportunity for the region’s communities to share best practices and build on a rich, shared heritage. The best part? This conference is FREE!

To register, please visit by April 8, 2019.  Conference questions can be sent to  Come visit Pulaski, and join us for this important training!

Save The Date: 2019 Downtown Intersections


Downtown Intersections

July 22-24 | Lynchburg, Virginia

Save the date and mark your calendars to attend Downtown Intersections, presented by the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development, on July 22-24 in Lynchburg, Virginia!

This two-day event promises a packed schedule full of sessions spanning topics geared toward strengthening your downtown revitalization efforts and helping your community create its ideal downtown destination marketplace.

A Jewel Worth Saving: Re-imagining Danville’s North Union Street

Guest Blogger Diana Schwartz, executive director of Danville’s River District Association, is a native of Dickenson County, Virginia, and was previously director of business retention for the Ocala/Marion Chamber and Economic Partnership in Florida, as well as director of the Ocala Main Street Program.

Danville, Virginia may be best known for the railroad system, including the wreck of the “Old 97,“and a rich textile and tobacco history.  But there is a block in downtown Danville, North Union Street, that also has a story of its own.

Recognized as a historical African-American business “mecca” during the era of legal segregation, North Union Street has been home to bustling businesses such as doctors offices, restaurants, a bank currently celebrating its 100th anniversary, barbers and salons, art galleries, and much more since the 1880s. After the closing of Dan River Mills in 2006, the street (like much of downtown) began a rapid economic decline.

Fast Forward to 2018, and over $125 million has been invested in the re-imagining of the River District.  Locally, there is an ever-watchful eye on preservation of the history, the buildings and the stories of the people.  This ethos of preserving both property and personal history led to the recognition that North Union Street was a jewel worth not only saving, but sharing.  In the fall of 2018, the River District Association was invited to participate in the 2018 Partners in Preservation campaign to showcase this history on a national level while competing for a grant to help further the preservation of the properties.

Over the course of 30 days in Sept./Oct. 2018, Danville was charged to garner the most online votes against 20 historic properties throughout the United States in order to win grant funding.  The committee knew the key was not just talking about the buildings, but the history of the people that inhabited them.

Ultimately, Danville pulled out a win. and $150,000 will now be used towards preservation and restoration of two North Union properties. The city of Danville recently completed a streetscape project on North Union, and RDA is currently in the process of a Community Business Launch program with the goal of opening five new business in the summer/fall of 2019 with a focus on North Union Street.  It is by sharing our past that we can build for the future, and we look forward to watching new stories being added to the History of North Union in the coming years.

Learn more about the re-imagining of the Danville River District >>>

Measuring Your Organization’s Fundraising Effectiveness

Organizations don’t fundraise just to raise funds – they fundraise in order to implement programming that meets their mission. In the case of Main Street organizations, this includes having a measurable, positive and visible impact on their community and their district. This is why measuring the efficiency and effectiveness of fundraising efforts is so important.

BoardSource, along with their colleagues at the Association of Fundraising ProfessionalsBBB Wise Giving Alliance and GuideStar, developed a new framework for evaluating fundraising effectiveness — one that provides a balanced approach that emphasizes how important it is to invest in strong and sustainable fundraising programs.  It is grounded in the following principles:

  • A belief in the work of nonprofit organizations and the awareness that the most important measure of their effectiveness is the impact that it is having in communities and society as whole.
  • The knowledge that charitable support from donors and funders are what makes impact possible, which means fundraising is absolutely mission critical.
  • The expectation that it is reasonable for nonprofits to care about efficiency and return on investment in their fundraising efforts, but that it is not the only way of measuring fundraising effectiveness.

The organizations with the most strategic and sophisticated fundraising strategies work to build a robust program that balances the risks and rewards of different fundraising tactics through a blended portfolio or strategy. They acknowledge that different fundraising tactics have different strengths and work to build a cohesive strategy that matures and grows over time.

Find an overview of this new framework here, along with a free toolkit for boards and leadership teams to help calculate fundraising effectiveness.

Small Real Estate Developer Training and Capacity Building Program

The Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) has partnered with Incremental Development Alliance to provide the Small Real Estate Developer Training and Capacity Building Program, supported with funding from the Virginia Housing Development Authority (VHDA).
DHCD and VHDA want to cultivate new and grow the capacity of existing small-scale real estate developers throughout Virginia. Through incremental, small-scale development, we can revitalize neighborhoods, reinvigorate historic downtowns and commercial districts, and build value for property owners and communities around the commonwealth.
DHCD will host educational lectures by the Incremental Development Alliance around the commonwealth in March. These lectures will explain common development challenges and detail a series of finance, design and construction techniques specific for completing successful small building projects – both rehabilitation and new construction, as well as discussing the value of small buildings to the local tax base. The goal is to building interest in the upcoming workshop (Staunton – May 16 – details TBA) that takes a deeper dive into the “how” of small-scale development.
Please RSVP and join us:
  • Harrisonburg | Monday, March 18, 4-6 p.m.
  • Wytheville | Tuesday, March 19, 9-11 a.m.
  • Petersburg | Tuesday, March 19, 5-7 p.m.

Come learn and network with us!

Stay Current On Issues That Affect Traditional Commercial Districts

In order to meet new challenges and ensure an effective Main Street revitalization effort, program participants need ongoing training.  Those participants – both staff and local community leaders – need different skills in different phases of the revitalization process.  For that reason, the Virginia Main Street program offers a robust training calendar tackling basic revitalization start-up tactics to deeper-dive technical assistance applied through real community success stories and offered for remote participation and in a variety of classroom environments around Virginia.

Stay current on issues that affect traditional commercial districts and on new revitalization techniques and models.  The 2019 Virginia Main Street Training Calendar is available now, listing opportunities at the regional, state and national levels.  As each training approaches, registration and course details will be posted on this blog and the DHCD landing and program pages.

Upcoming trainings include:

January-February: Community Development Grants How-to-Apply Workshops

February-July:  Incremental Development Alliance Trainings in Small Scale Development

April: Regional Rev Up The Six Q’s of Marketing

May: Webinar What is Main Street?

July: Downtown Intersections, Lynchburg

Check out more details and mark your calendar so you don’t miss a thing!