The Road to Improved Economic Opportunity Travels through Main Street - Letter From the President
January 6, 2017
Dear Main Street America Members and Friends,
Happy New Year! The start of the New Year offers an important moment to reflect on all that we accomplished together in the past year, and to think about the significance of our work as we look to the future.
The work of the Main Street Network has never been more relevant. In particular, I have been reflecting on the recent election cycle, and its implications on our collective efforts. The election brought into sharp relief the reality that the economy is not working for many Americans. The national economy has undergone enormous change, putting many communities at a profound disadvantage.
And yet there is cause for optimism about the future. As we in the Main Street movement know, innovation, collaboration, and the dedication of local leaders and volunteers are helping to revive economies across the country. From the downtown districts of small towns in Iowa to vibrant neighborhoods in Boston, the road to improved economic opportunity for all Americans travels through Main Street.
There is no single solution to reviving local economies. But there are several fundamental principles that can be put to work — principles that have proven effective in thousands of communities that have been part of the Main Street America network over the last 36 years. Dollar for dollar, this asset-based, market-savvy and community-driven approach is one of the most effective economic revitalization strategies devised.
First, any effort at revival begins with our Main Streets. Strong Main Streets — be they urban or rural — are the heart of communities. They are employment centers, gathering places, and destinations that celebrate rich culture and historical legacy. The older and historic building stock that characterizes these Main Streets is, for many communities, the single greatest asset they have. These structures, and the walkable, human-scale neighborhoods they occupy, offer flexible and affordable space for entrepreneurs, and safe and inviting housing opportunities for the growing population that is interested in living downtown.
Second, efforts to turn around failing economies succeed only when there is commitment, buy-in, and organization at a local level. Successful revitalization efforts are driven by leaders and residents who are tirelessly strategic about identifying their competitive advantages. Only a willingness to take an objective eye to local market data and craft strategies that are grounded in these dynamics can succeed.
Third, successful downtown revitalization happens when all of a community’s stakeholders are at the table, and all residents can see themselves in the vision for the future. Resilient economies are ones that lift everyone up together, prioritizing economic opportunity, equitable growth, and inclusion of a diverse range of voices and perspectives.
Fourth and finally, effective Main Street revitalization efforts prioritize local entrepreneurship, seeking out and supporting the creative and ambitious risk-takers among us, those that have been the backbone of America’s economic success throughout the last 240 years. Coordinated local revitalization efforts clear the path for these small businesses owners, connecting them with financing, space, training, and other local, state and federal resources available to support entrepreneurs.
We have profound challenges ahead of us, but I am continually inspired by the work of Main Streets across the country, and am excited by all that is ahead for our Network in 2017. This year, our members will see many new resources from the National Main Street Center — including the official roll out of the refreshed Main Street Approach with accompanying new resource guides, a brand new website, and a new networking and communications platform. In addition, look for new resource to help support entrepreneurship on Main Street, and exclusive grant opportunities for members.
Watch your inbox and Main Street Weekly for updates!
President and CEO, National Main Street Center