What does community development mean to you? In the Main Street world, community development is economic development with a historic preservation emphasis. This translates into developing customers, places, resources and businesses – a comprehensive focus. Over 2,000 communities across the country utilizing Main Street and its principles can’t be wrong. So if your community hasn’t already invested in Main Street, how do you get started?
There are many ways to get started but the easiest is to utilize Missouri Main Street’s Affiliate Grant Program. This program is a two-year, hands-on platform to assist with establishing or jump-starting a Main Street program in the community. It can either help with building the organization from scratch including by-laws and 501(c)3 filing or help an already created organization implement the Main Street Four-Point Approach® to revitalization. In both scenarios, the Affiliate Grant Program assists with gathering feedback and buy-in from the community, provides direction in creating priorities, and trains the organization and community on the Main Street principles. The hands-on approach and two years of consultation in the community reduces the learning curve so the revitalization process can take hold much quicker than without the Affiliate Grant Program.
In the last three years, over 16 communities have completed or are currently in the program. Blue Springs graduated from the program in 2013, hired their first executive director in 2014, and attained the Associate Tier level by 2015. Board member and newly hired executive director, Cindy Miller, has shared that “the formula provided by Missouri Main Street provides the structure that enables a group of people to work together. Structure is the key to the success of any project and the Affiliate Grant Program provides just that.”
Since 2008, the Affiliate communities have experienced over $28 million in redevelopment and rehabilitation in both the private and public sectors. The Main Street program provides that structure and comprehensive approach to redevelopment which sets the stage for investors and entrepreneurship. With development comes job creation, new businesses/expansion and increased property values, all items that contribute to the overall stability of the community.
So as you look at your community, is it an asset or liability? Look at your community from the perspective of a visitor, tourist, potential business owner or developer, new teacher, prospective manufacturer, or someone looking to relocate to your community. Do they see empty storefronts or bustling sidewalks? Crumbling buildings or rehabilitated structures? Dirty windows and unkempt sidewalks or neat landscaping and benches for shoppers?
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world, indeed it’s the only thing that ever has” is a quote by Margaret Mead that we use to demonstrate the power of the local community. Someday is here…what are you waiting for?
The next Affiliate Grant Workshop is March 9, 2016, in Jefferson City. To participate in the program, someone from the community must attend the workshop. This workshop is free to attend but an RSVP is required. Find more information here.