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Numbers Are In: Main Street America Reaches 10-Year High For Community Reinvestment


By National Main Street Center | From Main Street Story of the Week | June 16, 2017 | UPDATED August 16, 2017

At last month’s annual Main Street Now Conference in Pittsburgh, we announced that the national network of over 1,000 Main Street America programs reached a ten-year high for community reinvestment. In 2016, these communities reinvested $4.65 billion from public and private sources, created 5,616 new businesses, 27,462 new jobs and rehabilitated 8,042 buildings.* Download infographic.

“Despite some media reports about the demise of Main Streets, many local business districts are thriving as a result of sound economic planning and community engagement,” said Patrice Frey, president and CEO of the National Main Street Center, which supports the Main Street America communities.

In addition, Ed McMahon, NMSC board chair and senior fellow at the Urban Land Institute, presented on why the community-driven, asset-based Main Street Approach works and discussed the connection between quality places and economic competiveness.

“The Main Street Approach is successful because it provides communities with a way to plan for their future,” McMahon said. “All communities will undergo change, but communities that have a plan for that change set themselves up for long-term economic success. These are the types of communities people want to call home.” 

Since 1980, Main Street America communities have reinvested $70.255 billion, created 132,092 new businesses, created 584,0422 jobs and rehabilitated 268,053 buildings.* Download infographic.

Bleak no more

In a globalized, hyper-competitive economy, quality of place matters more than ever. More and more people are choosing to live, work and shop in places with a distinct sense of place and strong quality of life.  Healthy, vibrant Main Streets are essential to creating that quality of place, offering walkable, character-rich environments which make great homes for a variety of retail, service, and light manufacturing uses. 

“Successful communities leverage the older and historic buildings, educational institutions and community and cultural facilities in their town centers to attract investment and bring renewed vitality to downtowns,” Frey said. “That’s as true in rural and mid-sized towns as it is in the largest of cities, all of which are competing to attract talented workers and global capital.”

New research from the National Main Street Center on the fiscal impact of Main Street programs in Washington, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and the city of Boston underscores this great potential. Click the image at right to download the report by Jon Stover & Associates.

The data below reflects fiscal impact between 2015 to 2016, thanks to contributions from local Main Street programs.






City or State spending on Main Street program

$1.2 million


$2.8 million

$1.8 million

Fiscal revenue generated from average program in City or State





Tax revenue attributable to Main Street program

$17 million

$2.8 million

$25.1 million

$7.3 million

Return on Investment





“In the cities and states we looked at, the data is clear: investment in Main Street yields strong return on investment. These numbers are a powerful testament to the work that state, city, and local Main Street programs are doing, and to the importance of public investment in these initiatives,” McMahon said.

In Washington State, business growth attributable to Main Street programs generated state tax revenues of approximately $17 million. This fiscal impact far exceeds state spending on the program, which has averaged $1.2 million over the last two years.

Likewise, Oklahoma’s Main Street communities make significant fiscal contributions. With a state budget of $470,000, Oklahoma Main Street programs generated almost $2.4 million in fiscal return to the state between 2015 and 2016, equal to nearly $72,000 per Main Street community.

In Pennsylvania, business growth attributable to Pennsylvania Main Street communities generated state tax revenues of approximately $25.1 million. This fiscal impact outpaces state spending on the program, which has averaged $2.8 million over the last two years.

At the city level, Main Street programs in Boston generated nearly $7.3 million more city tax revenue than would have been expected without the presence of a Main Street program—a $5.5 million net fiscal gain for the city.

“Downtown and neighborhood district revitalization doesn’t happen overnight, but hundreds of communities across the country show it can be done. It requires local leaders, business owners, and community residents to come together to identify their assets, determine their regional competitive advantage, and develop a shared vision for success.” Frey said. “Communities make this vision a reality by investing in quality public spaces, supporting new and existing businesses, embracing small scale manufacturing downtown, and creating downtown housing.”

*These statistics were originally published on June 16 and revised on August 16.

Download infographic