Recognizing the Hard Work on Main Street: Sandwich Sampler Competition

At the recent 2018 Downtown Intersections in Harrisonburg, we continued the 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 point of the Main Street Approach®.  This is the third in a blog series to highlight each of the seven awards.

Promoting Main Street takes many forms, but the ultimate goal is to position the downtown as the hub of the community and economic activity, while creating a positive image that showcases a community’s unique characteristics.  This next award honors the best downtown restaurant promotion designed to generate foot-traffic to local eateries within the district.  Downtown Blackstone Inc. Executive Director Zachary Whitlow accepted the 2018 Best Downtown Restaurant Event award for the first annual Sandwich Sampler Competition.

This past spring, the first Sandwich Sampler Competition was held in downtown Blackstone’s Town Square.  The community was invited to sample signature sandwiches from participating local restaurants and take part in the voting for the best sandwich, crowning Blackstone’s Sandwich King or Queen.  The event was designed to showcase the quality of local cuisine and entice visitors to dine at the downtown eateries.  Downtown retail also gained exposure and amassed return customers through a cross-promotional campaign of special-offer coupons.

For the inaugural year, only 100 tickets were available for purchase, and it was a sell-out crowd! With a fine selection of local sandwich options, the competition was fierce, but the winner was quite clear. The Corner Kitchen won with a distinctive house-made strawberry ice cream sandwich.  While the inaugural event generated a small amount of revenue, it has the ability to become a profitable signature event. Given the vast amount of positive reviews, the competition will become a bigger and better annual event.

Congratulations Downtown Blackstone!

Visit downtown Blackstone for the upcoming Regional Rev Up: Opportunity Analysis – Effective Design, Oct. 17, 2018.

The District Digest Vol. 4 – Downtown Ideas to Put to Work

While you were busy making a difference in your hometown, you might have missed these thought-provoking reads.  Attraction, expansion and retention of businesses for your Main Street district is vital. It is also one of the most difficult things for a community to successfully accomplish. It takes hard work, planning and follow-through. Here is a dose of inspiration and education:

  1. Retention and Attraction Strategies for a Balanced Retail Sector – National League of Cities
  2. Chicago Proposes Experiment with Pop-up Urbanism – The Architects Newspaper
  3. Creative Uses for Buildings in Small Towns – University of Wisconsin Extension
  4. What’s in a Name? The Different Types of Shared Work Spaces – Virginia Main Street
  5. Incubators: Hatching Ideas into Business – Virginia Main Street
  6. Accelerators: Taking Businesses to the Next Level – Virginia Main Street

VMS Regional Rev Ups Coming Soon!

Join your nearby Virginia Main Street partners for the next Regional Rev Ups, coming April 17 to Warrenton, April 18 to Marion, and April 19 to South Boston. Our topic for this Rev Up will be Opportunity Analysis: Economic Vitality.

Data is typically the driver in most opportunity analysis.  However, we often underestimate the importance of examining the current state of downtown through the lens of existing business niches, non-traditional traffic generators and underutilized spaces.

With an eye toward being a keen observer, this workshop will walk participants through an opportunity analysis process by focusing on market data understanding and a walk-through of the host Rev Up commercial district.  Particular focus will be those opportunities that align with your transformation strategies and goals and target specific economic vitality-driven projects.

Join us for this half-day workshop that will be educational, inspiring and entertaining! Matt Wagner from the National Main Street Center will lead the discussion and tour. Matt serves as Vice President of Revitalization Programs at the NMSC. In this role, he is responsible for driving the Center’s field service initiatives, including the development and delivery of technical services for downtown and commercial corridor programs across the U.S.

Registration is free. Lunch will cost $15 and is only payable by cash on site at the event. Registration for each Rev Up session closes one week prior to the event, so click here to register now to reserve your spot!

NOTE: There will be a walking tour as part of this workshop, so please wear comfortable shoes.

Thank you to our Regional Rev Up partner!

Creating a Successful “Entrepreneurial Ecosystem”

In Main Street districts, one of the best ways to fill vacancies, and prevent new ones, is to foster a setting that is attractive to entrepreneurs and where small businesses can thrive.  The buzz word nowadays for that setting is “entrepreneurial ecosystem,” which refers to the elements outside the individual that encourage entrepreneurship and increase the probability of a successful business following a launch.  That ecosystem is what attracts, or repels, a business from locating in an empty storefront.

entrepreneur-ecosystem

Entrepreneurial activity in the U.S. is up 60% and at its highest level since 2005, according to the newest Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM U.S. Report) with retirees looking for a second career and younger adults driving the trend.  The market is ripe.

Energizing Entrepreneurs was developed by the Center for Rural Entrepreneurship to provide a roadmap for communities looking to build their own Entrepreneurial Ecosystems. It is a great resource for communities, organizations and individuals who want to learn:

  • Why it’s so important to become an entrepreneurial community;
  • The elements of a support system for entrepreneurs;
  • Assessment tools to develop a local strategy;
  • How to understand and connect to entrepreneurs; and
  • The importance of creating, measuring and sustaining local impact.

Exploring the opportunity is a first step and DHCD’s Building Entrepreneurial Economies program can support the effort!

Learn more >>

Local Incentives Drive Community Development

160914-manassas-ribbon-cutting

Manassas Ribbon Cutting

One of the most important ways that a municipality can support it’s small business community is through targeted financial incentives. A recent Potomac Local article touted the expansion of the city of Manassas’ business incentive programs, including Façade Improvement Grants and Landscape Improvement Grants. These incentives will assist with the exterior renovations and landscaping of existing commercial or industrial properties.  The new initiatives are designed to encourage business owners to reinvest in properties throughout the City and serve as a redevelopment tool intended to bring new life to older structures.  Each pilot program has been allocated $50,000 and property owners must agree to invest $2 for every $1 the City invests.

Incentives like these are used alone or as part of a package to retain and attract business to a Main Street district or generally catalyze projects.  They are often in the form of a grant or a zero- to low-interest loan to promote improvements and appropriate design.  Seed funding sources can come from Tax Increment Financing (TIF), bank partnerships, Community Development Block Grants (CDBG), municipal/county targeted funds, or private loans and grants.  Incentives can mean the difference between vacant storefronts and a vibrant downtown neighborhood.

Congratulations to Manassas!

Learn more >>

 

Can “Open Late” increase “Shop Local?”

ClosedSignIt’s an old problem and a pervasive one. In Main Street districts nationwide, small business owner’s are reluctant to be open late or on the weekends. As a consequence those who work 9-5 jobs outside of the district are unable to shop local. A recent Wyoming Business Report article takes a look at how Main Street businesses’ hours of operation could be a catalyst for shifting economic progress.

Store hours come up in conversations with Main Street advocates across the state and nationwide.  It’s a discussion topic that often ends with a collective sigh.  It’s a challenge to convince independent business owners to change, let alone an entire consumer group.

Writer Joel Funk highlights solutions from several Wyoming downtown professionals and the National Main Street Center’s Matt Wagner.  Business owners need people downtown to make it worth their while to stay open and, equally true, shoppers need businesses to be open to make it worth their while to come downtown.  A successful shift of store hours is reliant upon a relationship between the owner and consumer, encouraged by the local Main Street program’s market awareness and perseverance.

70% of all consumer spending (both locals and visitors) takes place after 6 p.m.  Tourism specialist Roger Brooks suggests starting the shift by working with businesses to stay open on Friday and Saturday until 7 p.m. the first year, then add additional days as merchant confidence and consumer habits change.

Be that catalyst to shift economic progress.  Start the conversation!

 

The Bright Buzz: Kindling entrepreneur-focused transformation in Winchester

Many communities have decided that supporting local entrepreneurs is key to a thriving Main Street and one Virginia initiative is receiving national attention!

The National Main Street Center’s Main Street Story of the Week takes a look at how a local property owner created an innovative community space for entrepreneurs and entertainment to thrive.  Jennifer Bell, Winchester’s Downtown Manager, highlights the Bright Center, a 38,000 square-foot mixed-use development housing offices for 20 businesses and organizations, the Bright Buzz for entrepreneurs, and the Bright Box for entertainment.  This entrepreneur-focused downtown project kindles a movement of dramatic transformation within Old Town Winchester.

Read more >>

 

MS_Bright-Buzz

The Bright Center, Winchester, Virginia