In January 2004, Main Street program managers in Missouri formed Missouri Main Street Connection, Inc. (MMSC) to breathe new life into the Missouri Main Street Program (MMSP), which was losing state funding due to budget cuts across the board. MMSC assumed the task of not only reviving the state program, but also building a bigger and stronger program that could serve more communities. Ultimately, funding for the MMSP was eliminated from the state’s fiscal year 2004 budget.
Fortunately, prior to FY2004, the Missouri Department of Economic Development (DED) had negotiated a contract with the National Trust Main Street Center (NTMSC) for services to the twelve designated MMSP community programs. Those services included local program assessments, quarterly manager meetings, workshops and trainings.
During quarterly meetings made available by the contract for services with NTMSC, the discussion focused on the strengths and weaknesses of the former MMSP and opportunities for re-establishing a state-wide program. The group identified its two main challenges: (1) the need to strengthen the communities already within the state network; and (2) the limited number of communities served by the state program.
Of importance to all the local programs was the continuation of the quarterly managers’ meetings and trainings on a rotating basis around the state, routinely followed by an advanced workshop for any Missouri community interested in Main Street. Previously, only designated programs were allowed to participate in workshops.
The local Main Street Program managers who were leading the charge to revive the Main Street Program in Missouri decided the best way to move forward was to become a 501c3 not-for-profit organization. This would broaden the opportunities and resources for funding to support the education effort for revitalization. The managers chose Missouri Main Street Connection, Inc. (MMSC) as the name for the new organization, and they began bi-monthly meetings for strategic planning.
At the February 2004 meeting, the managers elected a Board of Directors and officers for MMSC and sketched out a plan which would be further developed at future sessions. The group of six community programs that composed the initial Board of Directors for MMSC was committed to bringing back the Missouri Main Street Program, not only for themselves but for all Missouri communities. Moving forward with their plans for revitalization education, the Board of Directors and the Main Street Program managers, from 2004 to 2008, conducted a series of workshops and conferences on Main Street® revitalization topics for anyone in the state of Missouri who was interested in Downtown Revitalization.
The MMSC Board realized that they needed a system of “status” to help bring more communities into Main Street, but most importantly, to teach that there are levels of achievement. MMSC studied examples from other states in order to design an appropriate system and developed a new “tier system” to serve Missouri communities more effectively in their revitalization efforts. The tiers are Accredited, Associate, Affiliate and Aspiring.
In October 2007, the MMSC Board of Directors hired a state director to carry on the duties of the program, coordinate all training sessions, workshops and conferences, and conduct the assessment process for the communities participating in the tier structure. In 2009, MMSC added a statewide three-day conference culminating in an awards banquet to recognize the hard work and achievements by all Missouri programs.
Since 2006, MMSC has served 140 communities as the state’s clearinghouse for information, technical assistance, research and advocacy. Through MMSC’s consulting services, conferences, publications, membership, newsletters, and trainings, it educates and empowers local organizations to lead the revitalization of their downtowns and neighborhood commercial districts.
The current MMSC Board of Directors is made up of Main Street professionals, revitalization and preservation specialists, professors, attorneys, bankers, legislators and Missouri DED staff members. They volunteer their time to meet quarterly and are involved in all areas of MMSC work.