Autonomous Transit Shuttle Service to Launch in Crozet

The Downtown Crozet Initiative, a DHCD Commercial District Affiliate community organization, is embracing cutting-edge technology to help make visiting downtown a convenient, zero-emission experience, shuttling customers from a parking area into the commercial core.  While it may sound more Jetsons than Main Street, this is the real deal.

Crozet’s Perrone Robotics, Inc., JAUNT, Inc. and Albemarle County just announced a partnership to develop, test and operate the autonomous transit shuttle service pilot. The pilot program will start March 2019 in Crozet with hopes to expand toward Charlottesville, allowing riders to embark and disembark along a fixed route.

Albemarle County Board of Supervisors Chair Ann Mallek shared, “Albemarle County has long supported vibrant communities, and an autonomous, zero-emission transit service brings the promise of reduced parking needs and greater use of green technologies in our urban centers – allowing our community to continue to flourish into the future.”

This is one customer-oriented innovation to watch.  Learn more >>>

Makerspaces: Coworking spaces with Cool Stuff

Makerspaces, much like coworking spaces, are on the rise in the United States. There are now over 500 such spaces across the country, and that number is expected to continue to grow. They can be located in schools, libraries, community centers or as their own for-profit or nonprofit organizations.

Makerspaces are basically shared working spaces that include tools for members or participants to use. These tools can range from letter presses, sewing machines and 3-D printers, to CNC machines and other high tech machinery such as laser cutters that allow people to design, prototype and manufacture products they wouldn’t otherwise be able to at home.

Many makerspaces provide training and education in the STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) subjects. Most have classes for both youth and adults that provide a revenue stream for the business, and collaboration is at the heart of what most makerspaces are about.

Makerspaces also foster entrepreneurship as new businesses are locating in and doing work from makerspaces. An example of this is in Richmond, where Build, RVA has created a foundation that helps entrepreneurs understand the patent process, support intellectual property ownership and provide financial assistance for product-based business development.

Makerspaces require different planning and more extensive resources than simple coworking, as space and equipment specific to makers are more expensive and specialized. Fab Lab estimates the cost of the recommended equipment for a makerspace at $100,000-125,000. It is important to create a business model for any makerspace so you can determine if it is something viable for your organization and community. This article is a good resource for what you need to think about when creating a makerspace.

Want to see a makerspace in action in Virginia? Try:

Hacksburg – Blacksburg

HackCville – Charlottesville

FredWorks – Fredericksburg

Lexington Collaboratory – Lexington

Vector Space – Lynchburg

757 Makerspace – Norfolk

Nova Labs – Reston

FACTORY – Roanoke

Staunton Makerspace – Staunton

 

 

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

Increase Your Small Business Success During National Small Business Week

Lexington is celebrating the start up of four new downtown businesses!

Launch Lex Pitch Event

On the evening of April 11, more than 100 fans witnessed a group of aspiring entrepreneurs pitch their best ideas for new downtown businesses in a one-night version of “Shark Tank,” with $60,000 in grants awarded.  Main Street Lexington hosted Launch Lex, which provided an eight-week business training program and culminated with the competition. The room sizzled, and the community is still reeling from the excitement.  Congratulations, entrepreneurs!

On Main Street, small business support like this is essential for a vibrant downtown.  If you don’t currently have anything to offer, the U.S. Small Business Administration has you covered.

The U.S. Small Business Administration and SCORE Association will host a free, three-day virtual conference during National Small Business Week. The conference will take place Tuesday-Thursday, May 1-3 from 12:30-6:30 p.m. ET each day.

The virtual conference offers all the best parts of an in-person conference, but without the hassle of traveling. Watch 12 educational webinars, get free business advice from mentors, pick up free information and resources from sponsors and network with fellow business owners.

The webinars include:

  • Hug Your Haters: How to Embrace Complaints and Keep Your Customers
  • Simple Steps to Choosing the Right Financing
  • Pop andPlay: How Opening a Pop-Up Shop can Help Launch Your Retail Brand
  • How to Get New and Repeat Business On Autopilot with Email Marketing
  • The U.S. Economic Outlook and its Impact on Small Businesses
  • Grow Your Business in 2018

Learn more and share with your community>>>

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!

Webinar – Buy Local First: Driving Customers to Main Street for a Resilient Economy

On March 8, 12 – 1 p.m., Virginia Main Street is offering a free webinar focused on how to promote buying local and practical ways to build a resilient economy in your community.  

Local isn’t just a place on a map. It’s people: your neighbors and their families, their businesses, farms, nonprofits, events, and recreational venues. Local is a community and all of the opportunities we create together and challenges we work to overcome. Local First has a passion for people living and working together in sustainable community.

That’s Local First’s mission, a western Michigan advocacy organization, leader of a fast-growing movement, and the root of this webinar’s message.  By choosing local and independent businesses for your services, shopping, dining, and other needs, you not only enjoy a more distinctive and personal experience, you’re strengthening your local economy.

About the speaker:
Elissa Hillary, President, Local First, Grand Rapids, MI

Elissa Hillary is committed to building sustainable local economies that put people first.  As the President of Local First since 2007, she has brought together nearly 1,000 businesses in West Michigan to collaborate in building a vibrant community that encourages sustainable business and social enterprise development.  As a consultant and speaker, she magnifies that impact in communities around the world. Elissa is a founding Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE) Fellow, the 2014 BCorp Measure What Matters Champion, and a BCorp Ambassador.

Register now for this event >>