Director’s Column:

Main Street Around the Nation

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Download Main Street News PDF - 2009/01

Despite the dark economic clouds that hung over our nation at year's end, we still have much to celebrate on Main Street as we start the new year. Why, you may ask? From the local stories of resilience and innovation that you have shared with us to progress we've made at the National Trust Main Street Center on new initiatives that can support your work, we remain upbeat. Here are a few reasons why:

First, we are encouraged. Early economic reports from more than 250 Main Streets across the nation documented both unprecedented challenges to – and heartening resilience of – their economies. Many communities that responded to our national survey, conducted at the start of the holiday shopping season, reported creative strategies by local, independent entrepreneurs and Main Street programs, which kept people coming – and spending – in their districts. For a full report, see http://www.preservation nation.org/main-street/soft-economy.html.

Second, we are proud. We think that 2008 was a banner year both for the National Trust Main Street Center and the movement at-large. Top on our list:

• A Vision for the "Next Main Street" – With the completion of our year-long taskforce, the Center is ready and eager to approach the future, with clear goals to build "50 Strong" Main Street networks, leverage technology and research for innovation, and tap the thoughts of leaders within the movement. In the months since we completed our vision, the Center has produced useful national research, engaged new partners, and established innovative services to help local programs thrive in these tough times.

• An Expanded Network – 2008 saw the launch of new "coordinating" programs that will support local initiatives citywide in Orlando, Florida, and statewide in Oregon. They join 46 other coordinating program partners from coast-to-coast, while the number of designated local Main Street programs nationwide approached 1,300. Finally, our National Main Street Network membership rose to its highest level ever… 1,959 members and growing!

• Fresh Perspectives – With the addition of three new staff members at the National Trust Main Street Center, we have expanded the diversity of backgrounds and in-house expertise so we can offer new perspectives and expertise – which translates into new services, ranging from cultural diversity and entrepreneurship to social media and the new generation. The bottom line: more ideas and resources for local programs.

• Technology Innovation – Through our new  "Main Street Innovation Lab" webinar series, we are bringing "as you need it" information and training to every manager's desktop — on topics ranging from business recruitment and volunteer development to critical, timely issues such as the economy — with more on the way in coming months! To see the full schedule, visit www.mainstreet.org/webinars.

Third, we are excited. The year ahead holds promise for positive change and new initiatives that can bring fresh energy and vitality to every corner of every Main Street. Yet we know it won't be easy. At the Center, we understand that everything we do – everyday – will have to answer one question: how can this tool or service help programs and communities – in this economy? 

With practical, low-cost, technology-based solutions that raise money, recruit volunteers, market our districts, and help us work more efficiently, the 2009 National Main Streets Conference theme "Becoming Main Street 2.0" will offer progressive ways to stay relevant and successful.

Also this year, we are launching a new Main Street Professional Services Directory, an online service that will enable local leaders to tap the expertise of hundreds of consultants and specialists working in every area of commercial district revitalization.

With new themes and initiatives, we think that 2009 can be more than just a year where we "do more with less." Together, with your passion and creative energy as our inspiration, we can make 2009 a year of memorable achievements and outstanding progress.