July 5, 2022 | Main Spotlight: Nine Years at Main Street - Lessons and Reflections | By: Patrice Frey, President and CEO, Main Street America |
At the Opening Plenary at the Main Street Now Conference in Richmond, Virginia, Patrice Frey shared lessons and reflections from her past nine years at Main Street. Today, we are pleased to share a written version of her speech that offers up additional words of advice and wisdom on how Main Streets can chart a prosperous path ahead. Please join us in thanking Patrice for her years of service as our President and CEO! If you haven’t already, please view her parting words to the Network here
Main Street *Is* Economic Development
One of the most exciting things I’ve seen over the last decade is the way in which perceptions about the value of Main Street’s work are changing – and for the positive.
Since my earliest days on the job, I’ve found that Main Street’s work can sometimes be dismissed as being a bit frivolous and unimportant to a community’s larger economic development effort. I bet many of us have encountered it, the belief that Main Street programs are just about putting on fun events or saving pretty, old buildings.
I think of this as getting the Church Lady Treatment – the dismissive arched eyebrow that says "Well isn’t that special. But that’s not real economic development."
As non-profit leaders, we often try to “make do” with what we’ve got or what we’re offered, which is almost never equal to what we need to effectively do our jobs. I’ve tried to be more mindful about asking for what is needed to succeed, what we as an organization must have to be effective.
Remember the 20-60-20 Rule of Change Management
Main Streeters are Change Agents – we come to the profession wanting to support the transformation of places that we love. But change is hard
A few years back, I was introduced to what I think is one of the most important guidelines for change management, the 20-60-20 Rule.
In any sort of change management situation, you can generally expect 20 percent of people will be enthusiastic supporters, eager to embrace the new vision. These are your change champions, your most highly engaged and ardent supporters. This 20 percent will inspire the next tranche – the 60 percent– to support that change effort as well. That 60 percent will tend to hang back a bit first, and then be swayed by the positive momentum of your early supporters.
Be the Connector
Make All Welcome
Whatever You’re Doing on Housing, Double It
This country faces the interrelated crises of housing affordability and supply – our recent survey results show that availability of housing downtown for Main Street Directors is a major issue, with 87 percent reporting that they were concerned about the state of housing in their Main Street districts.
· Get better acquainted with city planning staff, housing advocates and developers, and code officials.
· Better your understanding of the capacity of your current downtown infrastructure, especially water and sewer capacity.
· Identify vacant or built spaces that could be utilized as downtown housing.
With thanks to the 1772 Foundation, you can see our terrific report on the state of housing in Main Street communities here
. More resources will be added online in the coming weeks, including a new report for Main Street managers interested in getting started in prioritizing housing development, and a web-based resource for accessing housing data and learning about potential responses to common housing challenges.
Legislation passed by Congress over the last year provided an unprecedented amount of funding to support electric vehicles, specifically ensuring that there is a nationwide network of charging stations that will allow people to drive cross country and enable everyone (urban or rural) to convert to electric vehicle ownership.
Build your Advocacy Muscle
Main Street isn’t a red state issue. It’s not a blue state issue. Everyone
has a stake in the health of their downtown and district. One of the most remarkable things I’ve seen in the last few years is the extent to which Republicans and Democrats see eye-to-eye on the need to support local economies, support small businesses, and support our Main Streets in particular. There are precious few other issues about which we can say the same.
Where elected officials know about their local Main Street programs, they are very often ardent champions of our work. The problem is, not enough of our federal elected leaders understand the work we do. And so, I end with this final request:
If you don’t yet have a relationship with your Senator and House Member, I urge you to reach out and invite those members of Congress to visit your Main Street this summer. Tell them what you do to support the local economy, what you do to support local business, and how you help create a better place to live, work and visit. Watch this recent webinar recording
to learn about how to host a successful visit, review these tips
, and ask them to support new legislation
to build the capacity of business district programs through the Economic Development Administration.
Finally, reach out to Kelly Humrichouser
, Main Street America’s Director of Government Relations, for help and support in making the connection with your elected officials. We are committed to collaborating with you to strengthen our movement and advocate for your work.
That’s it folks. I’ll be cheering you on.