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The Downtown Strong: Building Resilient Economies grant was a grant provided by the U.S. Economic Development Administration through Missouri Main Street Connection (MMSC) that will have continued impact on Missouri communities.

As the Downtown Strong: Building Resilient Economies grant comes to a close it is a good time to look back and reflect on the process, the partners, and the impact.

The grant was initiated to help Missouri’s small businesses and communities address the challenges faced in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. MMSC developed Downtown Strong, after receiving funds from the Economic Development Administration (EDA), as a service-based grant focusing on the retention of current businesses, recruitment of new businesses, job growth, and the transition of ownership or continued succession of existing businesses to support economic recovery and enhance the resiliency of Missouri’s small businesses and communities. The specific direction of the services provided through this grant came from MMSC’s observed strength of Main Street and experience with Missouri’s Main Streets during other periods of crisis.  The economic reports collected during the Great Recession from Main Street programs in Missouri showed a continued addition of net new jobs meaning Main Streets are economically resilient. This grant was aimed at applying those same principles to the recent economic hardship and boosting the Main Street effect in today’s challenging times. 

MMSC enlisted the services of qualified consultants who could provide direct services to communities through their downtown organization and struggling small businesses in Main Street communities. 



Initially, the grant started with 82 recipients in 20 communities including 16 Main Street organizations and 66 businesses.  Each of the grant recipients received one to six services for a grand total of almost 200 services in all. That’s a lot! To provide these services, MMSC contracted thirteen consultants.

If MMSC, the consultants, the businesses, and the Main Street organizations were honest, this process was harder than any initially thought.  Despite the challenges that arose during the implementation of the grant, the results are undeniable.

There were many successes and “assists” during the process. 

The first service was provided by MarksNelson who helped Libations in Lee’s Summit as they worked toward changing their business model and looked at buying property. Additionally, Old Town Cape in Cape Girardeau almost immediately worked with Jay Schlinsog of Downtown Professionals Network to develop an amenities plan that helped them identify how they could impact downtown safety. 



Some of the organizational services were more customized. Both Downtown Lee’s Summit in Lee’s Summit, MO and Downtown Excelsior Partnership (DEP) in Excelsior Springs, MO worked with Russ Volmert of FORA Planning to develop a wayfinding plan.  DEP Executive Director Lyndsey Baxter was creative in pooling resources and, in addition to the wayfinding plan, DEP worked with Joe Borgstrom of Place + Main to do a Market Analysis and Real Estate Redevelopment Strategy for strategic properties in their downtown.


General marketing, social media strategy, search engine optimization (SEO), as well as point of sale (POS) research, website, and online sales development were in great demand with the participating businesses, and our marketing consultants delivered! 



Under recent, new ownership, I.B. Nuts in Washington, MO worked with Chimera Creative Works to update their brand, evaluate their business opportunities, diversify their customer base, and enhance and update their online presence.   It was a lot of work for both the consultant and the new owner.  But the results were transformational!  Owner Holly Wunderlich commented that “it helped me put things in writing and focus my business on what I want to accomplish in the next few years.”


Annie Em’s at Home in Cape Girardeau worked with BOLD Marketing on a social media strategy, POS consultation, and development of a much needed website.  Owner Emilie Stephens Buelow remarked that “the process provided me the help I needed to move forward in areas that I had no idea how to navigate.  I didn’t know how much work would be involved but it was work I needed to do, and the guidance provided through the grant process made it possible. The outcomes from the work I accomplished with the consultant I couldn’t have done on my own.”



Other organizations and the businesses needed help with the “business” side of things.  Succession planning, staff transition planning, business plans, and business evaluations were provided to a number of businesses and Main Street organizations.  Main Street Kirksville received help developing their policies and procedures. They also needed to figure out how to move forward regarding the feasibility and structure of establishing either a pop-up shop or full business incubator service in one of the open buildings around their square.  Dana Thomas with BOLD Marketing facilitated a process that helped their board make important decisions around this project.



Vicky Sonenberg with Cygnet Strategies worked with Cindy McClain and her husband in Independence, MO, who are passionate about downtown. They own multiple properties and businesses that make up a large part of Independence Square. According to Cygnet’s Analysis and Recommendation report, Vicky worked with Cindy to help twelve of the businesses and their two umbrella organizations, McClain Restaurant Group and CRM Stores, “mitigate economic impacts of the pandemic and foster a stronger more resilient business model for each business as well as the umbrella organizations.”  Cindy said, “This has been a great help and a push to be better, get better, and find the strength and creativity to stand out as a small business!  Having been awarded the grants, Downtown Strong became more than a tag line - it became movement.”


Important Main Street training was provided as well.  Randy Wilson with Community Design Solutions provided Main Street Chillicothe and its community a training on the Universal Principles of Good Design and Historic Preservation.  After the training was complete, Main Street Chillicothe immediately incorporated what they learned into their work.



And those were just some examples.  There’s more you can find on our blog or by asking around Missouri!

The intent of the program was to outline services in a way that businesses and organizations could easily identify as a need and to provide a consultant to deliver that service. This worked great with some of the businesses and most of the organizations.  But there were many lessons learned.

The lesson everyone learned was that we (all) had to be flexible.  Businesses often didn’t truly recognize their needs or were not able to prioritize them.  In the aftermath of the pandemic, their situations and needs often changed quickly. In trying to help with the application process, specific services were identified upfront but some were too vague, and many were found to be overlapping in the delivery.

Considering all these factors, the consultants initially went to work to provide the participants requested services. It was soon realized, to no surprise, that the services that needed to be delivered were more unique to each individual recipient.  On the one hand, this worked well as MMSC tried to connect each consultant with the businesses or organizations suited to their specific skill set.  But logistics, timing, and, yes, human limitations, sometimes interfered.  On the other hand, unique was sometimes perceived as unequal. Lastly, all of it took substantially more time than anyone anticipated.



Lessons learned are good.  It means that the process was seen with open eyes.  Starting a project of this magnitude from the ground up is hard work, but it was well worth the effort.  In the end, though not perfect, the process resulted in MMSC, consultants, businesses, and organizations working together to improve, grow, save, and transition businesses as well as advance Main Street organizations, their impact, and the downtowns across Missouri.  The Downtown Strong grant program will have long term positive implications in the businesses, organizations, and downtowns it served.  Most people would call that success!

The services included in this article were prepared by Missouri Main Street Connection, Inc. using Federal funds under award 05-79-06056 from Economic Development Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce. The statements, findings, conclusions, and recommendations are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Economic Development Administration or the U.S. Department of Commerce.

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Missouri Main Street Connection Inc. (MMSC) partnered with the Missouri Humanities Council in awarding $5,000 grants to 12 selected communities through a competitive process to fund projects focused on strengthening heritage and cultural tourism in rural Missouri. The grant helped each community implement a project and market itself to prospective visitors. These projects added heritage tourism to the economies in each community through a range of projects from murals to walking tours to new monuments and building plaques that all highlight each respective community’s history for residents and visitors. One of the Marketing Heritage and Cultural Tourism grants was awarded to Vision Carthage in March of 2022 with the project completed in October of 2022.


Vision Carthage is the Main Street organization for Carthage, Missouri. They are one of several Main Streets in Missouri whose communities are the county seat and has their Courthouse Square as a part of their district. The Jasper County courthouse sits in the heart of Carthage’s historic downtown district with beautiful architectural detail making it a crown jewel for the community. It is this historic courthouse that provides visitors sidewalks to walk around with the best view of the district and all the change that has occurred over the decades.



The “Downtown Historic District Walking Tour” guide book was imagined to focus on Carthage’s historical significance, unique architectural structures, and its heritage and cultural significance from maple leaves and Route 66 to its courthouse and, most notably, Carthage limestone. Abi Alamdinger shared about the significance of Carthage limestone and its role in Missouri that gained it recognition, “Carthage became known for limestone which was polished into Carthage marble and used in the interiors and exteriors of buildings, including the State Capitol.”



Using the “Downtown Historic District Walking Tour” guide book, visitors are invited to ‘take a step back in time’ around the square plus additional buildings of interest outside the Square proper. Within the guide book, visitors will find historical details of the buildings surrounding the courthouse which were curated from historic sources from the Carthage Public Library by Vision Carthage’s promotion committee. Each page contains a picture professionally taken of the building between June and September of 2022 as well as any relevant historic photographs.



The stories of how Carthage has changed over time are now accessible to more people that visit Carthage for the day, or longer, and learn about this rural city. One interesting part about the districts presented in the guide book is the reason why so many of Carthage’s buildings are brick or stone. The guide describes the historic background of this phenomenon as, “During the early years, much was lost due to fire…As buildings were being rebuilt it was strongly urged that they be built out of brick or stone to alleviate the fire hazard.” There are over 30 different building highlights for you to discover through the guide book when you visit Carthage.


It wouldn’t be a trip to Main Street without checking out the current businesses inside these historic buildings. The impact of the walking tour is that it draws people in who are heritage tourists or life-long learners. While they explore and learn, they also shop and eat supporting the local economy.


Next time you are in Carthage bring your own copy of the “Downtown Historic District Walking Tour” by printing it from VisionCarthage.org or ExperienceCarthageMO.com. You can pick up a printed copy in the district to guide your walk around the courthouse.


Missouri Main Street Connection awarded the Marketing Heritage & Cultural Tourism Grants in partnership with the Missouri Humanities Council and the National Endowment for Humanities through the American Rescue Plan Act.

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The Downtown Strong: Building Resilient Economies grant is a grant provided by the U.S. Economic Development Administration through Missouri Main Street Connection (MMSC) that continues to impact Missouri communities.


The startup of a downtown organization takes hard work that often initially goes unseen by the community. The Pleasant Hill Historic District (PHHD) was no different. Their volunteer board of directors spent 2019 working to organize the nonprofit organization, setting up the 501(c)(3) status, adopting bylaws, and preparing materials for fundraising. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit just as they were gearing up for their first public partnership drive resulting in a loss of momentum for the organization. 



Realizing that effective communication with their community was now more important than ever, they looked to the Downtown Strong Grant to solidify and enhance their communication efforts.  Under the grant, consultant firm Mysamaris helped the volunteers develop a communication plan and build a website to gain support and build confidence as they began to make their plans public and share future goals.

The PHHD board saw that even though the organization’s momentum might have slipped, the COVID-19 Pandemic brought a renewed interest in small businesses. PHHD’s board wanted to build on this interest to both rebuild their momentum and to continue to build more interest in the local downtown business community. They worked with Mysamaris to develop a welcoming and engaging website that created interest in the district.



Mysamaris helped them develop a website that is easy to manage, which also provides a strong business directory, up to date event information, and maps of surrounding bike trails to help draw a broader customer. These features promote the district bringing feet to the streets and into stores and is a tangible sign of the investment PHHD was making in support of the downtown business community. 



But the website wasn’t enough. The Board needed a plan to better communicate on all levels. If the organization was going to regain momentum and move forward, it had to not only sell the downtown, but it also had to find solutions that allowed for better communication. Mysamaris helped the Board set up organizational emails to support incoming communications. They went on to help the organization set up and utilize Constant Contact and aided in developing a strategy for how to use it. In addition, they provided documented training that could be used to train future volunteers and staff.

The behind the scenes work with Mysamaris provided PHHD the tools necessary to regain momentum, to more effectively communicate both internally and externally, and to better promote the district as a destination.  



The services included in this article were prepared by Missouri Main Street Connection, Inc. using Federal funds under award 05-79-06056 from Economic Development Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce. The statements, findings, conclusions, and recommendations are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Economic Development Administration or the U.S. Department of Commerce.

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The City of Sedalia continues to work towards revitalizing its downtown district through the city-led Main Street program formed using services provided by Missouri Main Street Connection’s People Energizing Places (PEP) matching grant. As a 75/25 matching grant with Missouri Main Street, 75% of the grant service costs are covered by Missouri Main Street Connection (MMSC), the PEP grant is a great way to leverage local dollars to elevate or focus downtown revitalization efforts with the help of Main Street specialists.


Through the administration of PEP’s specialized trainings, Sedalia’s new board of directors, committee chairs, and volunteers have advanced their knowledge of facilitating and implementing preservation-based economic development.  Several recent trainings included services under the Promotion point of the Main Street Approach™ and more specifically creating a brand identity for the newly formed city-led Main Street program. 


Ben Muldrow is a branding specialist and partner with Arnett Muldrow & Associates, a creative planning firm. He has experience working in over 550 communities in 40 states and five countries.  In addition, Ben has worked in over 25 Missouri communities creating branding strategies and tools for many Main Street organizations and districts.  He spent three days in Sedalia meeting with stakeholders and city leadership to develop new branding for the downtown district and the organization.  The feedback from the stakeholders referenced the architecture from the district, being flexible for various uses, and that it should work with the new City of Sedalia branding.  Ben also took inspiration from Sedalia Main Street’s transformation strategies focused on creating an entertainment and family-friendly downtown.




The new branding debuted during a brand-unveiling presentation on the third day of the visit. During this presentation, Ben walked through the new branding recommendations he created based on the input sessions with complete explanations of the contents of the branding toolkit including colors, typefaces, graphics, and messaging. He elaborated on each section of the branding toolkit with its inspiration and connection to what he gathered from Sedalia’s stakeholders. The Main Street logo is anchored by the archway which is a one of the gateways into the downtown district. Downtown’s branding color palette expanded allowing the use of several colors found in the downtown district, one example being the red brick of several buildings in the district. This provides some flexibility to the system for the graphics and logos to reflect seasonal use and events. 



The City’s new branding typeface and fonts were used as the primary font for the Sedalia Main Street logo.  Another part of the City’s new branding integrated by Ben for the downtown branding was the tag line “Cross Paths.” 



Sedalia Main Street accepted Ben’s recommendations, meaning the newly formed Main Street program now has their own identify and look with new graphics presented for the downtown organization and its efforts.  All of the assets created will be available for Sedalia Main Street to create marketing and event materials.




This branding system will be integrated into all things Main Street from events, marketing and promotional materials, branding resources and programs offered downtown, integration into wayfinding signage, and shared with vendors for merchandise and souvenirs.  Included in the branding service was an implementation checklist and complete style guide to promote proper usage and tools to help integrate the new tools into programming and communications. 


If your Main Street program is interested in accelerating the downtown revitalization efforts or need some assistance with a specific project, contact Missouri Main Street Connection at 417-334-3014 or email Keith Winge at kwinge@momainstreet.org about the PEP grant or other grants that are available.  

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Milestones, collaboration, and activation have been the themes of the most recent progress from the three-pilot urban Main Street programs in St. Louis. – Dutchtown Main Streets, Laclede’s Landing Main Street, and Delmar Main Street. Missouri Main Street Connection began the St. Louis Main Streets pilot program in late 2019 as a partnership with the St. Louis Development Corporation (SLDC). 

Dutchtown Main Streets, a district south of the city center, began transitioning a business owners’ group into a Main Street program in late 2019 by educating the board of directors on Main Street principles, creating implementation-oriented committees, and learning how to measure the impact of projects and new businesses in the district.  Over the past three-to-six months the Main Street program has been focused on understanding and interpreting demographic and market information while identifying vacant properties in the district that are ready for development or need to be rehabilitated before development can take place.  The district is working with the Coro Fellowship Program to help establish tools for collecting economic data, reporting that data, and inventorying vacant properties.  The Coro Fellowship Program develops emerging leaders to work and lead across different sectors by equipping them with knowledge, skills, and networks to accelerate positive change. 




Laclede’s Landing Main Street began their Main Street program in 2021 with the goal of transitioning from what was once a night club focused district into a neighborhood district. They are utilizing their newly established transformation strategies of activating the riverfront and developing neighborhood goods and services to capitalize and continue on the work and planning that has already been completed by stakeholders, the city, and other entities. The development of more vacant upper story housing is one way they are planning to achieve their transformation strategies while building upon work that had already been taking place. There are developers already working with Laclede’s Landing Main Street on housing projects within the district which will bring more residents to what they call the “oasis of the city” tucked between the Martin Luther King and the Eads Bridges.  Related to the riverfront activation, district stakeholders and the city have prioritized the riverfront as seen in previous plans that have been developed by the city and conversations with MMSC and other organizations in the past. It is an asset that has not been capitalized on which provides opportunities for activation and additional retail while also serving as the living room for the neighborhood and visitors.  Working with the district Main Street program, conceptual documents are being developed for the riverfront including space for activation and retail as well as additional housing development.  The plans are still in the works but will follow the ideas of previous plans with the idea of phased implementation to bring them to fruition.  Stay tuned for more details in the months to come.  (The photo below is from a previous conceptual plan developed to activate the riverfront.)



November marks the one-year anniversary of Delmar Main Street’s program. November of 2021 was the kick-off stakeholder input meetings at St. Louis ArtWorks. Delmar Main Street did a repeat of that event for their anniversary giving an update on the past year to include the organizational accomplishments of forming a board of directors and Main Street committees. They also shared the committee work thus far, the impact of events they hosted, and the grants they have received for various projects—including the Creative Space Activation Grant, provided by MMSC, which will be used for the Delmar Main Street’s Transit Wall Transformation Project. The group also gave time for stakeholders to provide feedback on certain proposed projects and events for the next year. Delmar’s transformation strategies were developed with the valuable input from that first stakeholder input session in 2021 – creating people-centered places and promoting entrepreneurship and equitable development. Demographic and market information supports these strategies which focus on activating the boulevard with small businesses run by small business owners from the neighborhood while promoting ownership and equity development for those entrepreneurs. 



2023 will bring further development and services including the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a partner with Missouri Main Street Connection to bring entrepreneurial services and training to the St. Louis Main Streets program.  With economic development at the core of Main Street, this work will help build and develop small business owners, and provide access to capital and wealth-building tools to assist them in their entrepreneurial journey.  Stay tuned.

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Progress is a big deal in Main Street from the first façade renovation and new businesses opening downtown to being recognized for your local Main Street organization’s preservation-based economic development efforts. This year, two local Main Street organizations have been recognized for their accomplishments in implementing the Main Street Approach™ through progressing to the next tier in the Missouri Main Street Connection (MMSC) tier system. MMSC is proud to recognize Downtown Joplin Alliance and Uptown Jackson Revitalization Organization for their achievement of Accredited and Associate tier placement respectively.


The Downtown Joplin Alliance achieved national and state accreditation from both Main Street America (MSA) and MMSC. Accreditation is the highest level a Main Street program can achieve and indicates that Downtown Joplin Alliance is exceeding in implementing the Main Street criteria impacting their local district in big ways. The National and State designation of accreditation came after Norma Ramirez de Miess, MSA, and Keith Winge, MMSC, completed an on-site review of the organization’s implementation of the Main Street criteria. Reaching this benchmark does not mean revitalization ends as it is equally important to maintain the accreditation status once earned.


In 2021, Downtown Joplin Alliance, through their program’s strong historic preservation ethic, active Board of Directors and committees, as well as other technical aspects that help the program function at a high-level, saw public and private investment of over $45 million in the historic district from 36 projects. The district saw a net gain of 19 new business and 54 new jobs. Additionally, volunteers for Downtown Joplin Alliance donated 1,425 hours of their time. Downtown Joplin Alliance celebrated this accomplishment with a cake from the City of Joplin and said,

“This would not have been reached without our staff, our board, our committee members, our other fabulous volunteers, and all of our fantastic partners, such as Joplin City Government, the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce, and Connect2Culture amongst many others.”



The Uptown Jackson Revitalization Organization was selected as a new Associate tiered Main Street program with Missouri Main Street Connection (MMSC) following a program review by MMSC.  Associate designation is recognized by MMSC as a way to distinguish communities that are working toward being recognized as a national and state Accredited Main Street program.  As a stepping stone on the path to full accreditation, this benchmark highlights communities that are seeing an increase in the economic value of the downtown and is making progress to achieve an active and vibrant downtown revitalization organization.


During 2021, Uptown Jackson Revitalization Organization continued to implement historic preservation-based economic development in uptown Jackson that cultivated $461,382 total investment in downtown, 22 net new jobs, and 2,272 volunteer hours. Their impact has created a place for people to gather, live, and work in uptown Jackson


You can read the press releases written by MMSC staff through the link below:



The Main Street Approach™ is a time-tested economic development and historic preservation-based approach utilized successfully over the past 40+ years by over 40 coordinating programs and 1,200 neighborhoods and communities nationally. Missouri Main Street Connection’s program’s purpose is to implement this approach in creating vibrant communities across the state. The current Main Street criteria that is used to gauge the effectiveness of how a Main Street Program in implementing the Main Street Approach™ is based on over 40 years of successful downtown revitalization and demonstrates that empowering individuals to develop their downtown motivates high achievement, creates a place people will want to live, work and invest, and makes our state economically stronger. The goal of the National Main Street Center and Missouri Main Street Connection is to encourage preservation-based economic development through the Main Street Approach™.

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Missouri Main Street Connection (MMSC) offers two matching grants to help downtown organizations with their economic development efforts.  The People Energizing Places (PEP) Grant and the Strategic Teams Engaging People (STEP) Grant are a two-year and one-year grants for services, respectively.


MMSC is currently working with Sedalia and St. Charles through the PEP Grant.  The City of Sedalia applied and awarded the grant in January of 2021 to start a city-led Main Street program.  City officials had previous experience with Main Street and wanted help forming a local Main Street program that utilized an already established downtown city commission to serve as the leadership team.  MMSC did not have a city-led Main Street program in Missouri but, through the national Main Street network, knew there were successful city-led Main Street programs in other states.  Keith Winge, State Community Development Director, reached out to various Main Street State Coordinators to learn the ins-and-outs of Main Street programs housed within city government.   


Nation-wide most Main Street programs are established as non-profit, public benefit organizations designated as 501(c)3 organizations by the Internal Revenue Service.  There are also 501(c)6 membership based Main Street programs and Main Street organizations established as part of city or county government entities.  Each format has pros and cons ranging from the ability to take advantage of grant opportunities and encourage volunteer engagement with the 501(c)3 to the stability of wages and benefits in a city or county program.  The 501(c)6 format serves members and is not eligible for some grants while a city-led program must work harder to get volunteers involved.  MMSC reviewed the pros and cons with the City of Sedalia and they settled on the city-led Main Street format. 


Keith Winge began transforming the current Central Business and Cultural District Board into the Main Street leadership Board of Directors.  A community survey and stakeholder input session also took place to gather input on how downtown is used and what the community would like to see downtown with regards to businesses and activities.  This input helped with the formation of Main Street Transformation Strategies, also known as economic strategies, to guide the work of the newly formed Main Street program.  Using that data and feedback, MMSC recommended the Main Street program focus on creating a family friendly and entertainment strategy.  The City of Sedalia’s Main Street committees, will begin planning projects and initiatives that will use the Transformation Strategies as their guide.  Guided work with MMSC through the PEP grant will continue until the end of 2022 to help the City build their Main Street program.


St. Charles is a different story in that their downtown district is one of the quintessential downtowns in Missouri.  It has very little vacancy and many thriving downtown businesses, but the district lacked a formal organization to keep those efforts going.  A group of business and property owners got together to apply for the PEP grant for help in creating a Main Street organization to keep the downtown thriving into the future.  In April of 2022 Keith started with a day-long assessment of the current stakeholder groups by gathering feedback on what was and was not working in the district.


The group had already established a non-profit, 501(c)3 and Keith began helping them fill the Board of Directors reflecting the various stakeholder groups, diverse skillsets, and demographics representing the community-at-large.  The Main Street principles and philosophy were taught to the new Board of Directors equipping them to lead this new organization.  This new board is now recruiting and forming the Main Street committees.  These committees will brainstorm projects and initiatives, develop action plans, and implement those plans.  This two-year grant is entering its second year with MMSC finalizing the administration of the grant in 2023 where the St. Charles Main Street organization will continue to develop the committees, determine priorities, and continue to build a strong foundation to keep the momentum going in downtown St. Charles for their future.


If your Main Street program or downtown are interested in one of MMSC’s matching grant programs, reach out to Keith Winge at kwinge@momainstreet.org or by calling 417-334-3014.

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The City of Canton, Missouri and the local Main Street program, Canton Main Street, boldly joined forces to enhance their community economically and socially.  Canton is located in the northeast corner of the state on the Mississippi River with a population of 2,455 and is home to Culver-Stockton College.  It is a rural community with farming as one of the main industries, which serves as a port for grain distribution using the river and railroad. 

The local Main Street program began in late 2013 with a group of downtown stakeholders wanting to improve the trajectory of their downtown.  Like many downtowns, Canton saw years of deferred building maintenance, absentee property owners, and increased storefront vacancies.  Other issues were commercial retail space used for storage or part-time or hobby business owners with very limited store hours.  The goal of the small group was to start a Main Street program and turn that situation around. 

Missouri Main Street Connection (MMSC), using the Affiliate Grant Program (now called the Community Empowerment Grant), partnered with city officials and district stakeholder to form a not-for-profit Main Street organization using the 40-plus year template of the National Main Street Center to form a board of directors, utilize Main Street ApproachTM committees, and implement projects and initiatives using economic development-based action plans.  This partnership and implementation of the Main Street Approach™ created Canton Main Street. Canton Main Street utilized additional grants and services from MMSC to gather economic and market demographics, provide board training and support, assist in developing a list of priorities, and strengthen stakeholder relationships.  All of these activities lead to the community wanting more.  The leadership in downtown and throughout the city wanted to use the Main Street ApproachTM to provide a focused direction for the future of the entire community.  That is where the idea of a community-wide master plan was born. 




Through a partnership with the City of Canton, Canton Main Street, community stakeholders, and Missouri Main Street, the process of planning began in February of 2020, right before the COVID-19 pandemic began.  This first meeting set the foundation for the Master Plan by meeting with various stakeholder groups for a larger community input session to gather viewpoints of the current community assets, what the community would like to see in the future, and how the community and downtown can be activated.  The consultants, representing the Main Street comprehensive approach to vibrant community development brought their expertise to the input sessions but also began formulating themes or focus areas.  Main Street calls these focus areas Transformation Strategies which help guide the community development activities from brainstorming to funding to implementation. 




Future visits both virtually and in-person helped to refine these strategies and put more detail to the plan with the outcome being a 96-page document with visuals for potential projects, guidelines of how to implement, and recommendations on potential funding sources.  The report was presented in November of 2021 to a packed house at the new City Hall building.   Wayfinding signs, building renderings, new branding for downtown and the community, and business recruitment tactics were included in the plan and were featured during the presentation. 

Following the adoption of the plan, MMSC checks in with the leadership of Canton on their implementation progress, helps to remove obstacles, or assists with partnerships as the community moves through the timeline of implementation as outlined in the plan.  


MMSC provided 60% of the overall costs for the City of Canton Master Plan and the community contributed the remaining 40%.  MMSC provided a team of professionals to lead the community vision and provided the technical resources and trainings throughout the implementation of the plan’s goals and objectives.  If your Main Street community is interested in a community-wide Master Plan, please reach out to 
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Ben White »

Missouri Main Street Connection Inc. (MMSC) in partnership with AARP Missouri, is excited to announce the completion of the Uptown Jackson Revitalization Organization (UJRO) project “Roaming Parklet” from the AARP Community Resiliency grant. AARP Missouri invested in projects that inspire change and improve communities for all ages. UJRO, a Main Street program, was awarded $5,000 to make their resiliency project a reality, “The grant represented an outstanding opportunity for the rotation of a Roaming Parklet to park at all Uptown businesses,” said Janna Clifton. It is important for communities to activate spaces in new ways to meet the changing business climate as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. This grant was specifically designed to be implemented for the betterment of a uptown area by including community input and implementation while celebrating and encouraging inclusivity.

Debuting during the 2021 Christmas Parade, this ‘Roaming Parklet’ was unveiled to the community after months of dedicated volunteer work and coordination by UJRO with vendors and suppliers to complete their project. Developed off the grant winning rendering from Craig Milde, Design Committee chair and architect with Design + Advise, UJRO built a custom “Roaming Parklet’ from a tiny home frame that is lower to the street surface to allow fewer steps to climb and a shorter accessibility ramp. Furnishings including seating, bar top tables, and umbrella coverings when necessary to allow the ‘Roaming Parklet’ to be configured in different set ups according to the need of the business or special event. COVID-19 has made ordering tricky over the past year leading to several delays; however, UJRO has continued to press on with the project and wait until all the pieces were ready for the project’s completion. 


Activating streets has been vital in many communities across America as changing business requirements during the pandemic required more space for shoppers and diners. To address these requirements, many communities allowed restaurants and businesses to expand into the streets, utilizing would-be parking spaces as new shared spaces that served as extensions of their businesses to form parklets and outdoor seating. This is great for communities that have the infrastructure to allow for these measures to not impede or restrict streets and sidewalk spaces in facilitating drivers and foot traffic. For the Uptown Jackson area, this presented its own challenges as community and merchant concerns grew about the idea of permanent parklets.  Therefore, the answer was this ‘Roaming Parklet’ that would rotate and park at all Uptown businesses allowing them shared access to this self-contained, mobile “parklet” providing the same amenities for each use at each business driving publicity and foot traffic. Not only will this ‘Roaming Parklet’ be utilized for special event space and pop-up markets, it also is planned to expand existing businesses’ storefronts and retail space for years to come.  



This is a big win for the Uptown district and businesses as this will allow UJRO to inspire further revitalization and activation through the ‘Roaming Parklet’ by testing areas in the district for further enhancement and aligning UJRO’s anticipated comprehensive landscape plan in lieu of the routine builds and removal of semi-permanent parklets. 

A final thank you from Missouri Main Street Connection and Uptown Jackson Revitalization Organization to all the volunteers who put their time, effort, and expertise into completing this outstanding project and who will continue to volunteer through the usage of this community amenity to support the district’s businesses and provide a shared public space for visitors. Special thanks also goes out to UJRO Board President Terry Tushhoff and Executive Director Janna Clifton for the coordination of this project. 

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Holidays are when Main Street comes alive and becomes increasingly busier as community members and guests shop, visit, and enjoy downtown and the events that take place during the winter holiday season. This means both the local Main Street organization and its businesses are busy meeting the needs of their customers. As a result of the holiday frenzy, on-site visits are slowing down a bit, but there is still a lot of action in the Downtown Strong grant program.


The Downtown Strong: Building Resilient Economies grant has been successful so far due to its scope, which is to strengthen individual businesses and local Main Street organizations that have faced hardships due to the pandemic, by providing one-on-one consultations.


There is some flexibility in these services that allows the consultant to adapt their delivery to meet the most current needs as they work with the businesses and organizations. This process ensures recipients are receiving what they need for long-term success. 


Our team of consultants use their years of professional experience in evaluating the needs of the businesses and organizations to provide services that address true needs. In addition, the consultants are collaborating as the need arises when they work with businesses or communities that are receiving multiple services. These services often overlap or affect the other and consultants are working to make the process as efficient and effective as possible.



Over the last month our communities and consultants have seen good movement along the progression of this grant. BOLD was back on-site in Dutchtown providing training for The Wink which included setting up protocols, roles, and talking through strategies for ads with follow-up training planned in January to teach them to fully manage their social media and advertising.


Downtown Lee’s Summit started work with Jim Thompson who is helping them figure out the best ways to utilize and track information for future development as Lee’s Summit changes overtime, with many changes happening right now. This includes learning how to read demographic surveys and information of the community and how to best manage and utilize their building and business inventory. Also, during the past month, Downtown Strong Project Manager Marla Mills was able to visit and follow-up independently with several businesses in Lee’s Summit.



Jim Thompson also worked on-site with Clinton Main Street to develop the best process to use their demographic information for business recruitment.


Ben Muldrow with Arnett Muldrow and Associates did some on-site work in Trenton and, along with Jim Thompson, worked with Main Street Chillicothe as they work on recruitment, district marketing and upper story development.


Russ Volmert with Fora Planning was on-site with Downtown Lee’s Summit and Downtown Excelsior Partnership working on wayfinding plans. In addition, he is working with Warrensburg Main Street on a public space utilization plan. All things that will support the future development of these three downtowns!


The rest of our consultant team continue to work behind the scenes on research, strategies, and plans when not on-site with our communities. With the Holiday season starting, the on-site visits are slowing down, but that doesn’t mean work has stopped.



If you have any questions or want to chat about this program or your services, please reach out to Project Manager, Marla Mills.


The services detailed in this update were prepared by Missouri Main Street Connection, Inc. using Federal funds under award 05-79-06056 from Economic Development Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce. The statements, findings, conclusions, and recommendations are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Economic Development Administration or the U.S. Department of Commerce.

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