Recognizing the Hard Work on Main Street: CenterFuse Co-working

At the recent 2018 Downtown Intersections in Harrisonburg, we continued our tradition of acknowledging outstanding achievements in comprehensive downtown revitalization efforts through Merit Awards. They recognize the hard work, dedication and success of Virginia’s Main Street communities and their achievements across the four points of the Main Street Approach®.  This is the first of a blog series to highlight each of the seven award winners. 

Historic Manassas Inc. Executive Director Debbie Haight accepted the Outstanding Business award for CenterFuse Coworking.  Years in the making and the first in historic downtown Manassas, CenterFuse is both an incubator and co-working space that provides new and emerging businesses with an environment that will support their start-up phase and increase the likelihood of success.  It functions as a for-profit business, but was created by and is under the auspice of Historic Manassas Inc., a 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation and pioneer of the local Main Street program.

CenterFuse focuses on science and technology while cultivating other compatible businesses in the district.  The facility offers flexible leases, shared-use, and common office equipment, direct business assistance, mentoring, networking and access to capital.  The 3,800 square foot space includes a mix of offices, dedicated workstations, and open space for networking.  It also provides a roster of entrepreneurship education and mentorship programs, among others.

Since opening in May 2017, the incubator is seeing steady growth in the participating startup’s business development who will soon be ready to expand or move into vacancies downtown. While rising businesses are in the space, they contribute to an entrepreneurial culture in downtown and to the economic vitality of other local businesses and residential properties.

Congratulations Historic Manassas Inc. and CenterFuse Coworking!

To learn more >>>

Regional Rev Up: Opportunity Analysis – Effective Design

How can your downtown function better for residents, merchants, and visitors? And how do you identify opportunities in the physical environment to make your town a destination, drawing customers and revenue to the area?

On Oct. 11, 17, and 18 in Bristol, Blackstone and Gloucester, the fall edition of the Regional Rev Up promises to load you up with the tools you need to implement a people-centered downtown design process.

Effective downtown design supports a community’s transformation by enhancing the physical and visual elements of downtown while capitalizing on the unique assets that set the commercial district apart.  As a community, you need to bring together your stakeholders to plan what physical amenities will bring energy and dollars to the area. The type of design choices you make, and the variables that you weigh for making your decision, is the process known as opportunity analysis.

This workshop will explore a range of issues that impact the physical characteristics of downtown and provide you with a road map for navigating the opportunities involved in implementing holistic design principles to ensure they complement the overall strategy for your downtown.

Join us for this half-day workshop that will be educational, inspiring and fun!  Kathy Frazier, Principal of architecture and planning firm Frazier Associates, will lead the discussion and activities.

Registration is only $15 to cover lunch from a local eatery.  Registration for each Rev Up session closes one week prior to the event, register now to reserve your spot!

Register now! >>>

Host a Finding Main Street book club

Finding Main Street Facebook Event
Singer-songwriter Dar Williams launched Virginia Main Street’s Finding Main Street book club at the 2018 Downtown Intersections with a performance and talk on “Thinking in Bridges.”

“We think we have so much divisiveness,” she said. “But the opposite of divisiveness is not unity. It is collaboration.”

Williams found plenty of collaboration in the successful communities profiled in her placemaking and community development book, What I Found in a Thousand Towns. These are towns she has seen rise and thrive over her nearly three decades of touring. Williams asserts that they created “positive proximity” by:

  • Creating spaces that foster loose forms of communication and connection across residents.
  • Undertaking collective identity building projects that override the differences of the individuals contributing to them.
  • Welcoming the contributions of all willing citizens.

Across Virginia, the Finding Main Street Book Club will explore the strategies at work in Main Street communities. A toolkit is available in a tab at the top of this page. It currently includes:

Beginning on September 4, videos will be added weekly to highlight chapter concepts at work in Virginia’s Main Street network. In spring 2019, follow-up videos will showcase community conversations resulting from the book clubs. For the 2019 Downtown Intersections Idea Pitch, communities will be invited to propose projects inspired by the book and compete for funding to support the projects.

If you’d like to talk about book club ideas or the benefits of hosting one, contact your Main Street representative or Doug Jackson at 804-418-9878 or douglas.jackson@dhcd.virginia.gov. Remember you’re never in this alone–reach out to your likely partners locally, including book stores and libraries, and see what you can get started.

The book club model was piloted in Roanoke in the fall of 2017, where chapter discussions highlighted local leaders and organizations undertaking strategies featured in the book. Find more information from the pilot, including press and session descriptions, at bookcityroanoke.com.

Finding Main Street is a project of the Virginia Main Street Program at the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development with support from Virginia Community Capital, Virginia Tourism Corporation, Virginia Humanities , and Book City ★ Roanoke.

Incubators: Hatching Ideas into Businesses

Many new entrepreneurs find the process of growing their business as a lonely trek that takes more work than anticipated. Over the past few years, business incubators have helped these entrepreneurs grow and scale their businesses by providing support such as office space, training, mentorship, networking and even financing, in some cases.

Incubators can be sponsored by several types of organizations including nonprofit corporations, for-profit ventures and academic institutions. The idea of most incubators is to help businesses grow and “graduate” out of the incubator and into their own space within one or two years.

Some of the benefits to entrepreneurs are:

1. Helping fledgling companies save on operating costs. The shared facility allows clients to share in the overhead costs associated with business operations. Incubators may also help link businesses to capital, whether that is venture capital or other financing vehicles.

2. Providing a mentorship program that pairs an entrepreneur with an established executive with experience to help guide them through the start-up phase of their operation. This experience can help entrepreneurs avoid some of the pitfalls associated with their new endeavor.

3. The clients within an incubator can also develop relationships with other entrepreneurs, and the networking that comes from those relationships can be invaluable to their business. They can provide encouragement to each other and help solve problems.

Incubators benefit communities by helping new businesses prosper, which can lead to stable jobs for locals. Many new entrepreneurs will stay in the community and grow, filling vacant spaces and providing a lasting impact.

The Virginia Business Incubation Association is a good resource to learn more about incubators and what is available in your locality, as well as information and events geared toward the support of entrepreneurs in Virginia.

Experiences that Bring Customers Back!

We’ve heard from several communities across the commonwealth that improving downtown hospitality is a high priority in making their downtowns a destination! With help from the Virginia Tourism Corporation, DHCD has put together a series of 20 workshops across the state called Delivering Memorable Experiences Downtown, which aims to strengthen business hospitality to provide an experience that creates return customers and positive and proactive word-of-mouth.

Delivering the workshop is Virginia Tech associate professor and author, Dr. Vincent Magnini, who was recently ranked one of the top 12 most prolific hospitality researchers worldwide. Dr. Magnini has published six books and more than 150 articles and reports. His projects typically include destination marketing plans, economic impact analyses, feasibility studies and visitor satisfaction tracking. Before his career in academia, Dr. Magnini worked on management teams at Marriott, Hyatt and Hilton Garden branded hotels in the Mid-Atlantic and Midwestern regions of the U.S.

This training is designed specifically for business owners – restaurant, retail, service – there is something for everyone. Learn how to generate good buzz for your businesses!

Sign up for a workshop near you! Contact Jessica Hupp at Jessica.hupp@dhcd.virginia.gov or 804-371-7121 to register. Do not wait to reserve your seat for these one-time events!

August 6: Hopewell
August 14: Petersburg
August 15: Farmville
August 20: Waynesboro
August 21: Staunton
August 22: Winchester
August 23: Culpeper
August 29: Strasburg
September 11: Altavista
September 12: Pulaski
September 13: Lynchburg
September 14: Vinton
September 18: Cape Charles
September 19: Franklin
September 24: Gloucester

What’s in a Name? The Different Types of Shared Work Spaces

We’ve all heard buzzwords such as incubators, co-working spaces and maker spaces. As the number of people working in the “gig” economy continues to grow, so will the places that support that industry. But what’s the difference in these spaces, and what do they provide not only to the entrepreneurs that use them, but the community as a whole? Over the next few weeks, we will discuss several different types of shared working spaces beginning with an overview of the most popular types.

Incubators – Incubators specialize in growing new and early-stage businesses. They typically provide resources like office space, legal counsel, accounting and other business guidance, possibly even funding opportunities. The types of incubators vary greatly from office/service-oriented businesses to high tech. There are examples of incubators in Franklin, Lynchburg and Norton.

Accelerators – Accelerator programs are more geared towards rapid-growth companies. Most involve a “cohort” of companies that have applied to the accelerator program, and the idea is to “accelerate” the companies to market within a three- to six-month period. Roanoke and Hampton both have great examples.

Coworking space – There are an estimated 10,000 co-working spaces in the United States. The co-working space allows entrepreneurs and “gig economy” workers to join together in a low-cost space instead of working in isolation. These spaces typically offer other services such as networking events, mentoring and learning opportunities, and the opportunity to develop partnerships with other businesses. Richmond and Harrisonburg have really been at the forefront of coworking.

Maker space – A maker space is a collaborative workspace that includes a variety of maker tools such as 3-D printers, laser cutters, letter presses, CNC machines, computers and other equipment. Maker spaces typically charge a monthly fee to members and are created for those who are creating products or who would like to learn how to “make” items. Next time you are in Lexington or Staunton, check out these great examples!

Stay tuned for more in-depth discussion about each type of shared workspace, including best practices, in upcoming posts.

Welcome to Downtown Harrisonburg!

Guest Blogger Andrea Dono, executive director of Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance, has extensive experience in Main Street revitalization and community-based economic development, including 10 years at the National Main Street Center. 

Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance is thrilled to co-host the Virginia Main Street Downtown Intersections, July 16-18, 2018, and welcome you to our community in just a few short weeks! Hotel Madison is a brand new hotel that just opened at the southern gateway of downtown. Whew! We sure are glad there were no construction delays!

You can park in the garage next to the hotel and leave your car behind for a few days since it is a 10-minute walk down Main Street into the heart of downtown. If you want to skip the walk back to the hotel, hail our pedicab and cruise back without making any effort.

The Rooftop at Jimmy Madison’s Southern Kitchen and Whiskey Bar

Downtown Harrisonburg is Virginia’s first and only culinary district with over 30 restaurants and five breweries (three of which are award winning, two of which are new and hopefully future award-winning breweries), so scope out where you will eat and drink before you come.

Our happy hour on Monday will be at Jimmy Madison’s rooftop patio (don’t worry, there is plenty of shade). We’ll get some southern fare and refreshments while enjoying a view of Court Square. Some establishments are closed on Mondays, so if there is somewhere you want to go, check out their hours first.

Tuesday you are free to roam during lunchtime – only our authentic Indonesian café is closed since Boboko is open on Monday – but everywhere else will be open. Plus our farmers market will be open until 1 p.m. We’ll end the day with dinner and games at Ruby’s Arcade, where there are vintage duckpin bowling lanes, pool, shuffleboard and so much more. Stick around for bingo, which is unlike any bingo you’ve ever seen. Think “game show” instead of “retirement community.”

New Creation at Agora Downtown Market

Downtown is more than Main Street – slip down a side street and hop over to Liberty Street where you can continue wandering to find our beautifully restored train depot (that won an award last year), snap up a few human-grade dog biscuits (squirrel shapes are my…um…dog’s favorite) at Blue Ridge Dog, check out our old livery which is now Bella Luna – a fantastic wood-fired pizza spot – and yes, the gelato at their sister spot across the street is incredible.

We have tons of places to shop and a few galleries to enjoy. You can find original art from a few dozen artists in Oasis, check out several different shops all under one roof in Agora Downtown Market, watch jewelry makers use vintage tools and machines at Hugo Kohl’s boutique and museum, and so much more. All shops and attractions on our website, so get ready to explore!

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