Source: Main Street America Blog – March 8, 2019
The Art in the Alley program sponsored by Farmington New Mexico Main Street. Artwork by Tommy Singer.
Thank you to everyone who completed the 2018 Main Street America Trends Survey! The 347 Main Street America members who participated provided a range of valuable information about their organizations and Main Street communities. Click here for a short summary of the survey results, and keep reading to dive into the successes and challenges Main Streets identified.
Respondents named fundraising as one of their top successes in 2018. Eighteen percent of respondents indicated that their organization’s public and private funding had both increased in 2018. Average operating budgets also grew this year. Forty-one percent of respondents reported operating budgets of over $150,000, compared to 34 percent of respondents last year. Other top successes included partnerships, local buy-in, and accolades (including grants and awards).
This year wasn’t without challenges for survey respondents, who identified store variety, inconsistent store hours, vacancies, parking, and infrastructure as their biggest obstacles. Store variety and inconsistent store hours are new to the list in 2018.
Sixty respondents identified partnerships as one of their biggest successes in 2018, and many communities highlighted real estate development partnerships in their surveys. In West Point, Mississippi, a vacant downtown grocery store was purchased by the county for a new courtroom, which will draw more people downtown. The West Point Main Street Growth Alliance will work with the county on marketing and landscape efforts as they get closer to completing construction. Gardiner Main Street in Gardiner, Maine bought five buildings and three lots two years ago, and they are now under contract with locals who will open art galleries, restaurants, a brewery, and other high-end storefronts.
Main Street programs are continuing to foster small business growth in their communities, with more than half of survey respondents reporting that 90-100% of businesses in their communities are locally-owned. Communities offered a range of exciting entrepreneurship programs in 2018, including an Entrepreneurship Day in Mesquite, Texas. The City of Mesquite offered four roundtables on planning, opening, running, and expanding businesses, with panelists who provided expertise on each subject. Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance in Harrisonburg, Virginia offered small businesses an economic gardening lite program that focused on building an online presence. Participants applied for free marketing, web design, and visual merchandising technical assistance and then applied for mini-grants to put their new ideas into action.
The Art in the Alley program sponsored by Farmington New Mexico Main Street. Artwork by Jamie Fairchild.
Main Streets also continued to nurture art and artists in their communities in 2018. Upham’s Corner Main Street in Upham, Massachusetts held a four-week workshop tailored to creative entrepreneurs and artists called “The Confident Creative Business Owner: A 4-Week Course for Creative Entrepreneurs.” Farmington Main Street in Farmington, New Mexico received a grant for an Art in the Alley project to make their alleyways more pedestrian-friendly and encourage business owners to beautify their back entryways.
Thanks again to everyone who participated in this year’s survey. Main Street America members can always learn more about what other Main Street programs are doing throughout the year, share successes, or ask for help with a challenge by starting a conversation on The Point.