Top Ten Reasons We’re Excited about 2012

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With the New Year upon us, the staff at the National Trust Main Street Center are seeing some promising indicators of change that will, in the long term, boost our downtown revitalization mission, while preparing our program and projects for the coming year. Here’s a Top Ten List for both:

IN THE FIELD

  1. The Rural Mainstreet Index: soaring to its highest level since June 2007!  The Rural Mainstreet Index, derived by a monthly survey of community bank presidents in 10 regional states, focuses on approximately 200 rural communities with an average population of 1,300. Their survey is detecting a very healthy “Rural Mainstreet economy,” with the gap between urban and rural widening.  The rural retail sales index for December 2011, for example, bounced to a record high.
  2. New LEED Certifications: tipping toward retrofit! According to figures released at the end of 2011, the majority of green buildings using the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) criteria are—or the first time—retrofits of existing buildings, rather than new builds. This may bring a welcome change in focus for the green movement, bolstering the idea that the greenest buildings will, increasingly, be those that are already built!
  3. FEDS: focusing on small-town revitalization! This past year, $28 million in Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grants was awarded to regions with populations of less than 500,000; and $15 million in Community Challenge Planning Grants went to rural places with fewer than 200,000 people.  Many of these projects will include Main Street revitalization elements.
  4. Smart Growth: showcasing more Main Streets!  A few months ago, the International City/County Management Association published Putting Smart Growth to Work in Rural Communities, which outlines five preservation-friendly strategies, with abundant credit and attention to the Main Street program. And next month, I will have the honor of leading two sessions on urban and rural Main Street success stories at the annual New Partners in Smart Growth Conference,.  Our approach has never had more visibility to the community development movement than right now.
  5. Investors: taking note of small indie local enterprise!  In recent months, I’ve been reporting on a promising trend toward local investing—an inevitable progression from the “buy local” movement—and now even large Fortune 500 companies like American Express (AMEX) are tuning into the power of indie businesses… and not just through once-a-year promotions such as Small Business Saturday. This past year, AMEX also sponsored the first national, longitudinal study of market share trends for independent businesses, reporting that independent businesses draw nearly half of all retail shopping business in the United States. Who says big boxes are so big?

AT THE CENTER

Back at the National Trust Main Street Center (NTMSC), our staff have their sights set on some ambitious plans for the New Year as well. Rounding out our Top Ten List:

  1. The 2012 National Conference! This year will mark a return to one of our most popular conference destinations—Baltimore, Maryland. With one of the largest and most mature city-wide urban Main Street programs in the country, our host city will help us shine a spotlight on…
  2. More Urban Main Streets! While in Baltimore next April, the Center will be holding a first-ever “Urban Main Street Summit,” with more than 170 urban districts invited.  Beyond the conference, NTMSC staff will be helping to launch, or ramp-up, new urban Main Street districts, from Detroit, Michigan to Portland, Oregon.
  3. A Better “Solutions Center”!  In recent months, we’ve re-built our popular members-only online database of best practices and sample documents.  Our revamped and expanded “Solutions Center” now includes more than 200 entries, and we plan to grow it even more in 2012.
  4. More Great American Main Streets!  What would a year be without new stars to shine on our national stage?  Next month, our jury convenes to select the next five outstanding programs for 2012.  Stay tuned for announcements in April.
  5. An Expanding National Network! In the last quarter of 2011, we added nearly a hundred new members to the National Main Street Network, our first real growth since 2008.  In addition, the Center’s Facebook page just topped 3,000 fans!

Together, we are reaching more people in more communities than ever; with a timely message and impressive track record, Main Street is more relevant than ever.