In August of 2016, Missouri Main Street Connection (MMSC) was awarded a USDA Rural Business Development Grant (RBDG) to provide technical assistance to rural communities in Southeast Missouri. When writing the grant, we looked for an area of Missouri without widespread participation in Main Street by the local communities to focus our efforts. While we have and currently work with communities in the southeast region, our goal was to expand this effort by strengthening relationships with community partners in the Southeast Region.
Using the grant we worked with many communities on various issues and projects they were facing in order to help them move forward in their revitalization work. Communities in the southeast region received a variety of services and trainings that were all tailored to the individual community’s need and their experience with implementing the Main Street Four-Point Approach®. These services included town halls to gather public input and support, introduce the Main Street philosophy to the community as well as utilizing the help of consultants to guide the communities in the next steps for their Main Street organizations. Consultants were brought in to provide information and ideas for business recruitment, façade and streetscape design and what steps the Main Street organization must take to implement these plans.
MMSC also organized workshops specifically for communities from the southeast region to learn more about Main Street and how it could help their communities. While some communities in the area have experience with Main Street, we also wanted to reach out to those that want to learn more. In October 2016, we hosted a Main Street 101 workshop that introduced the basics of how Main Street can work for community as well as what MMSC could do to help in the process. Two Affiliate Grant workshops, hosted in the region, explained ways that MMSC could provide dedicated, specialized services and support to the communities in order to get their Main Street organizations started.
Early in 2017, MMSC hosted the Main Street Summit for the communities in Southeast Missouri. The Main Street Summit focused on building a partnership between the local government and the local Main Street organization. Two people from each community attended, one with the city and one with the downtown organization, to learn about Main Street. We have found that bringing people together to hear the same information helps them get on the same page about what the next step is for their community, allowing them to work together better.
Finally, twice during the grant period, MMSC has hosted Basic Training on the Four-Point Approach® for people who wanted an in-depth look at how the four points of organization, promotion, design, and economic vitality work together in a Main Street organization. These workshops covered what each point is and what tasks fall under them for the Main Street community.
Through the Rural Business Development Grant, MMSC has made great progress in the education, training and implementation of Main Street in Southeast Missouri. As with all other regions of Missouri, there are communities at different stages of community revitalization. We tried to tailor the services provided in this grant to all levels of revitalization experience in order to assist as many communities as we could. It was very important to teach the basics of Main Street through many of the workshops described above to lay the groundwork and get communities excited about the transformation that could take place in their communities. We then expanded on these principles and addressed specific needs in the communities that had more experience with Main Street. We were able to help overcome preconceived notions that the historic district wasn’t worth investing in. We helped create or reestablish relationships with communities and their local and state officials. Finally, we provided motivation for communities to take the next steps to create a vibrant and sustainable downtown.