September 7, 2023 | Community Spotlight: Downtown Wytheville Meets Downtown Florence | By: Todd Wolford, Executive Director at Downtown Wytheville, Inc |
Shop Small at Town Hall & The Dispensary. Photo from Downtown Florence Main Street. Celebrating the streetscape improvement project. Photo from Downtown Wytheville, Inc.
Across the Main Street Movement, organizations are always looking for a good grant. While attending the 2023 Main Street Now Conference in Boston, we learned about the Peter H. Brink Leadership Fund. This scholarship fund enables organizations to travel to other communities to learn and share ideas for best practices on all things Main Street and community development.
The Downtown Wytheville Inc., team was interested in traveling to a community that was currently working in closely with their local municipality and also one who also has a focus on collaborative community development initiatives and project-based placemaking. I put a post out on The Point and spoke to a few directors in the network, including Hannah Davis from Downtown Florence Main Street in South Carolina, who was gracious enough to respond to all my enquiries. So, like directors do, we picked up the phone for a chat. It’s always interesting to me how Main Street directors just seem to hit it off like long lost friends! This exchange was no different and, at the time, little did we know at the time that our communities and organizations would have so much in common.
After the conference in Boston, we applied for the Peter H. Brink Leadership Fund, received the grant, and set a date to travel to Florence for a two-day downtown deep dive. We were joined by Executive Director Hannah Davis, Assistant City Manager Clint Moore, and Main Street South Carolina Coordinator Jenny Boulware. Our Wytheville team included Administrative and Events Coordinator Charlie Jones and Wytheville Town Manager Brian Freeman. We learned a great deal from the Downtown Florence team that we can bring back and implement in Wytheville to continue to build on the sense of place and experience right here in our community.
I hope we can continue to find ways to work with other high-achieving communities across state lines. When we learn from other leaders who do this work well, our network grows stronger. I have talked to many directors throughout the nation about board development, overall structure, and the challenges and successes in the life of a Main Street director. At Downtown Wytheville Inc., we want to continue to learn and grow our community while having a focus on organizational sustainability practices. We learned a lot from Downtown Florence’s hybrid main street model, and we look forward to exploring what that can look like in our community.