Our publications, conferences, and training seminars give communities valuable information to improve their operations. However, sometimes a community needs more individualized attention and benefits from enlisting the help of Main Street Center consultants. Through our on-site consulting services, our staff can visit your community and see your district in person, better understand its dynamics and challenges, and help you develop a series of strategies and projects that addresses your specific issues.
The Center offers a variety of on-site consulting services, all designed to help strengthen local commercial districts and revitalization programs. Our consulting services identify or clarify impediments to revitalization success and, based on local capacity and resources, provide workable strategies and solutions to address local revitalization challenges. We offer both standard and customized services to meet local needs. In either case, our consulting services are tailored to meet the particular needs and circumstances of each of our clients.
Our standard consulting services include the following:
The Main Street Assessment
To help communities determine if the Main Street Four-Point Approach is a feasible commercial revitalization strategy for the district, the NMSC offers the Main Street Assessment. The objectives of the Assessment are to identify some of the commercial district's major problems, opportunities, and needs; to provide community members with information about a community-based, volunteer-driven approach to commercial revitalization; to determine whether or not a community-based, volunteer-driven approach to commercial revitalization is an appropriate strategy for the commercial district's revitalization; and to recommend a realistic, achievable course of short-term (12 to 24 months) activities to launch the revitalization program.
The Assessment is conducted by two members of the NMSC technical services staff and is available in a two-day and three-day format. Staff conducts demographic and other research in advance. While on site, staff tour the commercial district; hold meetings and interviews with a variety of public and private constituents; make an informational presentation about community-based, volunteer-driven approach to commercial revitalization; formulate recommendations; and make a verbal presentation of preliminary findings. Following the on-site portion of the service, the host organization receives either a detailed written report of findings or a follow-up on-site consultation related to the Assessment findings and recommendations.
Program Start-up Consultation
Typically the first in the series of Standard Services, the Program Start-up Consultation assists local Main Street programs with publicizing and launching their revitalization effort. During this one-day service, one NMSC staff person works with local Main Street leaders to identify next steps in the organization's development, develop strategies for volunteer and staff recruitment, and deliver a public presentation to inform the community about the Main Street program. The consultation includes meetings with program volunteers and the delivery of a Main Street informational presentation. Following the conclusion of the consultation, the NMSC provides a brief summary, generally two to five pages that outlines organizational next steps and recommendations for each individual Main Street program.
Designed to determine the future technical assistance needs of each neighborhood Main Street program, the Needs Assessment gives NMSC personnel the opportunity to identify the community's priority issues and needs for specialized consulting expertise. One or two NMSC staff members spend 1½ days in the community to review past commercial revitalization accomplishments and projects. Staff also meet with local revitalization program staff (if hired), program leaders, city staff, and stakeholders to identify primary issues, concerns, and goals for the commercial district. NMSC staff also assess existing organizational capacity, identify the commercial district?s assets and opportunities, and develop an appropriate set of technical assistance services for each program. Staff deliver a verbal preliminary presentation of findings and provide a follow-up written summary of five to 10 pages.
The Main Street Center’s standard planning services are designed to identify an overall vision for the commercial district, develop over-arching strategies to achieve the vision, and develop individual implementation plans to accomplish the district’s revitalization strategies. Described below are the three planning services that address these objectives.
A community-driven vision of the commercial district’s future arrived by consensus is an essential element of a successful revitalization program. The Center’s Vision Development session offers a streamlined process for developing consensus for the preferred future of the commercial district. The NMSC facilitates the development of a vision statement for local Main Street organizations. NMSC staff conducts a four-hour input session during which participants identify and prioritize their goals and activities for the commercial district. At the end of the session, NMSC staff compile the results into a concise vision statement that describes the preferred future of the commercial district. Priority projects and activities are also identified. The Center presents the results during a brief (1½ hour) follow-up presentation. The local Main Street program receives a written summary of its visioning session.
Commercial Revitalization Planning Team (Resource Team)
The Center’s Commercial Revitalization Planning Team serves to identify a commercial district’s issues and opportunities and to recommend short-term and long-term strategies for the revitalization of the community’s Main Street district. The team conducts an analysis of the district’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, and formulates project and operational recommendations that are designed to guide the revitalization program’s activities for a period of three to five years. Depending on the size of the commercial district, each team lasts three to four days and is comprised of four to six individuals. Composition of each team is tailored to the needs and circumstances of each commercial district. Typically, teams are composed of one or two NMSC staff members, specialized consultants, and a member of the staff of the state/citywide Main Street Coordinating program. Team members investigate the commercial district’s existing conditions and available resources. The team also meets with community and business leaders, the local Main Street director, and other representatives of the commercial revitalization effort to discuss their plans and solicit their comments, concerns, and ideas. The team then provides a verbal presentation of findings and recommendations while on site. At conclusion of this visit, the Center prepares a comprehensive written report of findings and recommendations that essentially serves as the district’s revitalization plan.
The NMSC assists communities with the development of a 12- to 18-month annual plan of action that identifies specific revitalization projects, tasks, costs, and task responsibility. Tied to the commercial district’s vision and the Main Street program’s revitalization strategies, the workplan offers a day-to-day guide for management of revitalization projects and provides the program with an outstanding volunteer and budget management tool. NMSC staff facilitate workplan sessions for local Main Street committees and the board of directors. These sessions include brainstorming and prioritization of the organization’s projects and activities. During this facilitation, volunteers develop detailed project plans that outline specific tasks, timelines, and volunteer and staff responsibilities for project implementation. The result is a comprehensive set of detailed action plans that guides the program’s implementation.
Often commercial districts need help with a single problem or issue. In those instances, a tightly focused, specialized consulting team is extremely useful to help the district resolve the issue. Over the years, the National Trust Main Street Center has developed issue-specific consulting teams to address a variety of commercial district revitalization issues. We also offer on-call telephone consultation to provide quick access and advice for specific local issues.
The National Trust Main Street Center is available to be on call to local Main Street programs to provide advice and guidance on program operation and project implementation. Local staff or volunteers can contact NMSC staff with questions or issues and to seek advice and recommendations regarding specific operational issues, project implementation strategies, partnership development, internal operations, and more. Consultation is typically provided via verbal conversations, but written materials may also be developed or delivered where appropriate. As part of the contract for services, a specific number of hours can be allocated to each local Main Street program. Delivery of the service is then provided on an as-requested basis.
Issue Specific Consulting Teams
We first work with the community to discuss the specific issue and identify objectives for the consulting team to accomplish. Based on those conversations, we develop a team of experienced consultants that can address the particular issue. The team spends time on-site to examine local circumstances and to develop a set of recommendations that address the specific issue(s) identified. Consulting visits are often of short duration, generally two to three days, but longer or repeat visits may be appropriate depending on the complexity of the issue(s) to be addressed. The findings of the consulting team are typically delivered during a verbal presentation and documented in a follow-up written report or materials.
A sampling of Issue-specific Consultation topics includes the following:
Market Analysis Services
Researching and understanding the commercial district’s market is an essential step in developing appropriate, effective strategies to revitalize traditional business districts. Market research should be the driving force behind business development projects, marketing efforts, and even physical improvements.
The National Trust Main Street Center provides a variety of market analysis services that give commercial districts key market information. The Center offers market analysis training, assistance with surveys, market research, and strategy development services for governments, planning agencies, and revitalization organizations.
Whether your district needs help with a single research component or needs an entire market analysis, we’ve got the staff and services to expand your understanding of the commercial district’s current and potential markets.
Demystify the market analysis process and learn to conduct a basic retail market analysis. This two-day training teaches local staff and volunteers the basics of how to gather and analyze market data. Participants learn about various data sources, how to gather primary market information (surveys, etc.), and how to interpret market information. Faculty: One NMSC staff person.
How a survey is conducted is just as important as the survey itself. Develop or polish local surveying skills in this one-day training session. Designed for local staff and/or volunteers, the Center teaches appropriate techniques for administering customer intercept or telephone surveys. Survey location, interaction, randomness, and scripting are all covered, along with audience Q & A. Faculty: One NMSC staff person.
How does your commercial district stack up in retail sales? What categories are strong? Where are you losing potential sales? A sales leakage analysis looks at a variety of merchandise categories and determines if the district is capturing its full retail sales potential. The sales leakage analysis helps a business district understand its market strengths for marketing, business expansion, and retail business expansion and recruitment opportunities. The NMSC helps communities understand their retail sales capture by conducting sales leakage analyses. Prerequisites: The district’s primary trade area must be identified.
Can you accurately describe your district’s position in the market? A position statement — a concise, accurate description of the commercial district’s niche does exactly that. Position statements are essential tools for marketing and business recruitment. The NMSC assists communities by developing position statements based on existing market analysis findings. Prerequisites: The district’s primary trade area must be identified; business and asset inventories must be complete.
Do you know the ages, incomes, gender, ethnicity, and educational data about your district’s trade area population? If not, you may be missing valuable marketing and business development opportunities. The NMSC will provide this demographic data in a written report form, along with suggestions of revitalization activities based on the data. Prerequisites: The district’s primary trade area must be identified. Completion of a business and promotion inventory will lead to better tailored recommendations.
Do you know the lifestyle characteristics and habits of your trade area population? If not, you may be missing business opportunities and the chance to fine-tune marketing efforts for maximum appeal. The NMSC will provide this psychographic data in a written report form, along with suggestions of revitalization activities based on the data. Prerequisites: The district’s primary trade area must be identified. Completion of a business and promotion inventory will lead to better tailored recommendations.
Can’t conduct a full-fledged customer survey? Already have your survey results, but find you need more detail? Consider focus group research. Focus groups are a very effective way of gathering opinions, perceptions, or more data about a specific market segment. The NMSC assists communities by conducting focus group research. We work with you to identify relevant target market groups, help you identify desired information, and conduct the focus groups on site. We also provide a written summary of results and, where appropriate, suggested actions based on those results.
Conducting a business inventory provides a comprehensive account of the current business mix and a qualitative ranking of service, merchandise, etc., in the commercial district. The NMSC assists communities with this project by designing the inventory form and is also available to conduct the inventory on site; this service includes compilation of a written inventory in print and electronic formats.
How well do you know your Main Street’s businesses? A business survey reveals detailed information about your district’s businesses, business trends, and businesses’ perspectives on the commercial district. Survey information provides a clear understanding of the district’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as market opportunities. The NMSC assists communities with this project by designing the business survey form. The Center is also available to conduct the survey, either by coordinating a written survey or administering the survey one-on-one with individual business owners.
Gathering public opinion about the commercial district helps the community understand its district's strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities. Surveys yield information about the business district and current customers’ usage patterns. The NMSC can design a custom survey instrument to assure the best possible information is gathered. The Center is also available to conduct the survey on site or to tabulate, summarize, and analyze surveys conducted locally.
If your commercial district attracts tourists, it’s important to understand their perceptions and usage patterns of the district. The NMSC can design a survey instrument to assure the best possible information is gathered so you can learn more about this target group. The Center is also available to conduct the survey on site or to tabulate, summarize, and analyze surveys conducted locally.
Do you already have market analysis data but have no idea how to translate that information into real-life projects? If your analysis has stopped short of identifying action items, let the NMSC go to work for you. Our personnel will review your market analysis information and provide you with written recommendations about the appropriate business mix, business development opportunities, and other market-driven activities (including promotional strategies and physical improvements) to revitalize the commercial district. We’ll also identify any gaps in the data and recommend ways that the community can find that data. The written report of findings and recommendations can also be presented on-site. Prerequisites: Completed market analysis.
Communities can save money and get a better understanding of their own market circumstances by conducting the bulk of a market analysis themselves. Community members do the legwork by conducting and tabulating surveys and other research. The Main Street Center supports this effort by designing the market analysis process and instruments, directing volunteers through the process, and providing professional guidance and a reality check along the way. At the conclusion of the research phase, the Center analyzes the community’s research and identifies marketing and business development strategies, as well as other suggested revitalization activities. Prerequisites: Local steering committee of 5 to 10 individuals, plus 10 to 20 additional volunteers; commitment to project completion and adherence to a mutually agreed timeline.
The Main Street Center is available to conduct a comprehensive market analysis for your commercial district. We first meet with the host organization or steering committee to identify specific research objectives and questions. The Center then will design, conduct, and tabulate appropriate surveys, identify and profile the trade area, conduct a leakage analysis, develop a position statement for the district, and identify marketing and business development strategies as well as other relevant revitalization activities. We will analyze the business mix for clusters and potential niches for development. We maintain contact with the client throughout the process to obtain feedback and/or verify results. Final deliverables include a detailed written report of the analysis and accompanying strategies. NMSC staff will also spend up to two days on site presenting the findings and discussing strategies with business and community leaders.
This service is particularly useful for communities that are conducting their own market analysis, those who want a second opinion about another firm’s analysis, or those that need a little help in interpreting existing market analysis data. Our staff can guide and advise the community on a "retainer" basis. Ask us your questions, and we’ll provide the answers. Fee: $125 per hour on site or by telephone.
Price quotes include all preparation, on-site, and follow-up time and materials; travel expenses (air and ground transportation, meals, lodging, and incidentals) are additional.
Program Evaluation Services
Without regular evaluation, commercial district revitalization programs have no way of measuring their success or correcting structural or programmatic weaknesses. An evaluation conducted by an outside party not only provides a clear perspective on progress and needed improvements, but also lends credibility to the evaluation process.
The National Trust Main Street Center offers two services that evaluate the progress, projects, and operation of local commercial district revitalization programs.
Mid-year Program Review
Appropriate for a beginning Main Street program, the Mid-year Program Review evaluates local Main Street operational practices instituted to date and the function and activities of the board of directors and committees. The Mid-year Review helps to ensure that the local Main Street program has established a solid organizational structure and is proceeding in the development and implementation of revitalization projects. During this 1½ to 2-day service, Center staff members meet with staff, board leaders, and committees to review operations and projects. At the end of the visit, the Center provides its findings, including recommendations to strengthen the program’s operation and project implementation procedures, to give the client the most solid footing on which to proceed. The Center also provides a written summary of findings for the organization’s reference.
Annual Program Evaluation
The Main Street Center’s Annual Program Evaluation is designed to evaluate the local organization’s efforts to implement its commercial district revitalization program, to measure progress and accomplishments to date, to recommend strategies and solutions to improve the organization’s operation and programs, and to formulate plans and requirements for the future operation of the program. To deliver this constructive review, NMSC staff meets with local staff, board members, committee volunteers, and other key stakeholders to evaluate the efforts made to implement the Main Street program in the community, to measure progress and accomplishments to date, and to formulate plans and requirements for the future operation of the local revitalization program. Center staff delivers a verbal report of findings, followed by a summary written report of findings and recommendations.