Build a Better Board, Be a Better Board

With spring upon us, the thoughts of many Main Street board members, directors, coordinators and managers turn to board development (right?).

First – plan. Think about “How to Build the Board You Want.”

Second – ask questions.How do we identify and recruit the right members?” Do we have a finance guru? Marketing expertise? Community representation? Building owners? Business owners?

Next – evaluate with “How to Select First Rate Board Members.” And once you have selected them, let them know what is expected of them during their service with a Board Member Agreement.

Now – orient your new board members! Board Source has a great resource for planning the orientation that is right for your organization and board.

And, do not forget National Main Street! They have great resources for planning all aspects of your community revitalization efforts, which is the whole reason you have an organization and a board. Their Board Member’s Handbook covers not just governance, but the Main Street Program and Approach, as well.

Do you want to provide your shiny new board members even more resources? Consider the Center for Nonprofit Excellence’s Board Academy to take it to the next level.

Have you used any of these resources? Are any of them new to you? Tell us what board development resources you find the most beneficial.

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!

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!

Finding Main Street Toolkit Available

The full book club toolkit for Dar Williams’ What I Found in a Thousand Towns is now available! Use the toolkit to build “positive proximity,” and start local conversations around the key identity-building assets in your community–who knows what next steps you will take.

What I Found in a Thousand Towns emphasizes the role of projects and individuals in fostering strong community identity. Each chapter features a different group of assets ranging from local food to community spaces. The structure provides an opportunity for Main Street districts to convene and highlight a diverse group of partners, celebrating their work, strengthening alliances and inviting new participants.

Identify potential projects as a result and apply to pitch them for project funding in the 2019 Idea Pitch at Downtown Intersections.

fms tools

HOW TO GET INVOLVED: Invite a local book club, library or civic group to partner with your Main Street. Create some buzz reinforcing the value of the work you are doing. Using the Virginia videos and examples from the book, shine a celebratory light on your own local efforts and community partners. With the toolkit, you can pretty easily set up your own informal mini-conference.  Contact Doug Jackson at (804) 418-9878 or for assistance and brainstorming support.

Afraid you do not have enough readers? Do not worry, you can use the videos to supplement and start the conversation. Launched throughout the fall of 2018 via Facebook Live conversations, the chapter videos have received more than 20,000 views on Facebook. In 2019, DHCD will promote the videos through a Finding Main Street social media campaign featuring quotes and images from the interviews conducted as part of the project with more than 80 Main Street leaders. This campaign will lead up to the 2019 Downtown Intersections and the Idea Pitch competition.



What is a “brownfield?”

Often, we think of brownfields as large industrial properties with environmental contamination and hazardous materials. However, a broader definition includes real property, the expansion, redevelopment or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant or contaminant. This means that the Virginia Brownfield Restoration and Economic Development Assistance Fund (VBAF), administered by the Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP) in coordination with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), may be able to assist with funding to overcome environmental concerns for gateway or downtown commercial district properties.

Mutual Pharmacy, Big Stone Gap

The town of Big Stone Gap is utilizing these resources in the redevelopment of the Mutual Pharmacy that closed in 2013, with the VBAF funds going specifically to remove asbestos and lead-based paint. Along with DHCD funding from both the Industrial Revitalization Fund (IRF) and Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), as well as the Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority, for construction, Big Stone Gap will transform the Mutual Pharmacy building into a restaurant and bar space with upper-story, short-term lodging in order to draw locals and visitors downtown for outdoor events and unique food, thereby increasing tourism to the area.

Mutual Pharmacy building(interior) after remediation

Once the revitalization is complete, approximately 25 jobs will be created and serve as a catalyst to bring additional business investment in downtown Big Stone Gap.

Funds from VBAF can be applied to site assessments and planning or remediation. For local government entities, planning and assessment grants are available up to $50,000 on a rolling basis as funding is available. Remediation grants up to $500,000 are available when announced on a competitive basis. Both funds require a dollar-for-dollar match. In addition, there are other great opportunities available to pursue from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) brownfields funding that are open until Jan. 31.

If you would like more information on these programs or to see if your project qualifies, contact DEQ’s Vincent Maiden, brownfields program coordinator, at or 804-698-4064.


Virginia DEQ Brownfields Program

EPA Region 3 Brownfields Assistance

Town of Big Stone Gap

For the New Year, Practice an Attitude of Gratitude

Traditionally, when one year wraps up and a new one begins, we, as individuals, start thinking forward in resolutions.  It’s no different for Main Street nonprofits, as a new work plan provides the blueprint for the change the board of directors envisions for the district.  It is no doubt a great idea to start off inspired and motivated with a laid out path.  However, before moving on, take a moment to reflect on the past year and express gratitude to the nonprofit’s donors, especially important following year-end gifts.

“Thank you”—these two simple words can make or break the relationship between an organization and its donors.  Most nonprofits know how important it is to send acknowledgment letters after receiving gifts. But, to truly engage and retain donors, we need to practice an attitude of gratitude to ensure that our donors feel appreciated and our board members are excited about fundraising—a win-win for any nonprofit!

The experts at #networkforgood have you covered with 10 creative donor thank you ideas.  They say “periodic expressions of your gratitude can do so much to build the relationship between your organization and your donors; especially when they are thoughtful and unexpected. Use these 10 ideas to spark your creativity and generate new ways to say thank you to your donors.”

Check out the 10 ideas>>>

We hope you enjoyed your holidays, and happy new year!