Main Spotlight: A Tribute to Ed McMahon, Board Chair of Main Street America

  
June 28, 2021 | Main Spotlight: A Tribute to Ed McMahon, Board Chair of Main Street America |
Ed McMahon
Ed McMahon speaking at the Opening Plenary of the 2017 Main Street Now Conference. Photo credit: Main Street America

5_19_ConfRewind_WedPlenary__5_shorter.pngFor the past five years, Ed McMahon has served as the Chair of Main Street America’s Board of Directors: a role in which he has actively championed the Main Street movement and advocated for the Network’s continued success. Throughout this time, his expertise in real estate development and community revitalization has been an immeasurable support to Main Street America’s growth. In addition to sharing his expertise with the national organization, Ed has offered his knowledge directly to local Main Street districts across the network: penning a myriad of articles, speaking at countless conferences, and keynoting dozens of events.

In tribute to his years of dedicated service, we rounded up a few of our favorite articles and speeches from Ed. From his essays in State of Main to his articles published in municipal journals in states across the nation, Ed’s words on the power of Main Street as a strategy for economic development are evergreen. We hope his words inspire you as they have inspired us.

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Ed may be rotating off as Board Chair, but fortunately for all of us he’ll remain on the MSA Board. This summer, he’ll be busy speaking at several Main Street conferences, including those in Missouri, North Carolina, and Mississippi Tri State. Contact Ed if you are interested in having him speak at your upcoming event. And, keep an eye out for new content from Ed in the coming months on our blog and social channels.

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A Proven Economic Development Strategy

State of Main | 2019

“Dollar for dollar, pound for pound, Main Street is one of the most effective economic development programs ever created.”

Main Street is a holistic and incremental approach to community revitalization works—this has been proven time and time again. In this essay for our 2019 edition of State of Main, Ed takes a look at why the Approach works. From exploring the power of small steps to the importance of investing in people and creating quality places, he makes an undeniable case to community leaders that Main Street is always a better economic strategy than “silver bullet” solutions. This compelling essay has been updated and published by multiple municipal journals and magazines including Virginia Town and City, Kansas Government Journal, and EVOLVE Business and Entrepreneur Magazine.




Where am I? The Power of Uniqueness

TEDxJacksonville | 2015

“Communities that can’t differentiate themselves have no competitive advantage.”

Designing and preserving a distinctive sense of place leads to more than an attractive downtown. In this TED Talk, Ed explains how “community distinctiveness” can be harnessed as a strategy to economic success. Through an exploration of the economic, psychological, and social value of unique places, he argues for the preservation of historic buildings, the maintenance of cultural landmarks, and the protection of accessible natural landscapes. He concludes by reminding the audience that towns can and should grow, but with intentional focus on preserving their unique and distinctive sense of place.




Investing in Main Street makes more sense than Foxconn

Wisconsin State Journal | 2020

"For the majority of American communities, chasing major corporations is not an effective economic development strategy. In comparison, the Main Street Approach creates sustainable local economies, built around neighborhood gathering places and supported by diverse sources of funding."

Many local leaders see luring big businesses to communities as a “silver bullet” to stimulating their economy. In this article, Ed examines that assumption by comparing two case studies of economic development strategies: that of Wisconsin officials luring Foxconn to Racine County and that of the Wausau River District’s Main Street. Ultimately, he draws a clear line between the Main Street Approach as deployed by the Wausau River District and the strength of their local community. Using quantitative as well as qualitative data, this article demonstrates just how effective the Main Street framework is as a strategy for revitalizing local economies.




Downtowns Matter

State of Main | 2016

“Whether it is a land use plan, a tourism plan, a downtown redevelopment plan or an economic development plan, savvy communities build on what they already have.”

How is it that some small cities and towns prosper while others suffer disinvestment, loss of identity, and abandonment? In this essay for our 2016 edition of State of Main, Ed explores the common characteristics “successful” communities share and offers guidance on how commercial districts can cultivate and implement initiatives to create these characteristics in their town. All of this centered on the fundamental understanding that each Main Street district is and should strive to remain unique: a quality they can harness to support their community.




Please join us in thanking Ed for his years of leadership and service to the Main Street America Network. Check out more of his articles and publications at ULI.org.


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