A Farewell from Doug Loescher

SOTW-7-17-12_DLFarewell_BANNER

Three Things Main Street Taught Me

After 22 fantastic years at the Main Street Center, I have left the National Trust to chart a new adventure—and to follow my heart and do what I love most: Build sustainable communities and vibrant local economies. Main Street will remain the cornerstone of that passion, and I hope to stay connected with all of YOU—the network, the people, and the places that have come to mean so much to me personally, as well as professionally. 

As I reflect on my seven years as director, I would like to share three things I learned from the Main Street movement that changed me as a person. I offer these in the hope that they will have meaning for any professional in our movement:

  1. Say Yes Instead of No—Sometimes, we can’t wait for the perfect opportunity or solution.  There are “windows” of opportunity for things that may pass, as we wait for the “ultimate.”  When we launched some of our most creative ventures at the Main Street Center, such as the Building Opportunity Network, (marketing vacant properties), ShopMainStreet.org (promoting local businesses), Innovation Lab (webinars), and Main Street GREEN (sustainability summit), we didn’t have all the information and resources to create a perfect program.  But every one of those efforts introduced new ideas to the network, brought new players into our partnership, and produced new initiatives on the local level. And in every case, we could not have predicted the unintended spin-off benefits or lessons learned. I always found that the best things happened when we chose to seize the opportunity of the moment, whether it was perfect or not. The next time you find yourself answering a “yes or no” question, consider what the added surprise benefits that saying “yes” may bring.
  2. Don’t Worry about How “Good” You Are—One of the best things about my job was the opportunity to see Main Street from the outside. Every time I spoke at a conference, participated in a national taskforce, or made my case to an official, I had to ask myself: “Why do they want to hear my ideas?” Many of those I spoke with were brilliant researchers, policy analysts, and thought leaders. But few of them had ever accomplished anything on the ground, and I think that’s what makes what we do so “special.”  Most of us know that Main Street is not rocket science, and to outsiders it may just look like common sense and ordinary practices. But we should never be intimidated by the “importance” of sophisticated economists, developers, or academics. At the end of the day, your passion will make the case for why what you do matters. The lesson for me: Do what you love, and don’t worry about how “good” you are—or might be—at it. Passion will drive competencies and you will achieve great things.
  3. Main Street Needs You… Just Perhaps Somewhere Else—Hands down, this is the best job ever. And I don’t just mean the director’s job, but that of every Main Street professional in the national network. And the network is certainly a great place to be. Collectively, we have accomplished so much leading the movement. But you are not the mayor, the chamber exec, or the Feds. You are the Main Street director. You are not ashamed to throw parties on the street, pick up litter, or argue with merchants. You get things done. You also get support—from the mayor, the chamber exec… or sometimes, even the Feds. Imagine how powerful it is when they are already on your side—when they are already one of you. That’s what happened when Ted Alexander in Shelby, North Carolina, traded his Main Street manager job to become mayor of the city. That’s the same story I have heard countless times, from key players in national organizations, federal agencies, and financial institutions, people who have their roots in Main Street and have brought their passion to a new role. Some of us will find that we can have even more impact for Main Street, by moving beyond Main Street. I certainly hope I can do so in my next career.

As I look toward the next chapter in my career, I know that I will miss the camaraderie of the Main Street family—and the deep friendships I have built with so many of you over the years. I want to thank each and every one of you for your friendship and support. I couldn’t have called it “fun” without you.

For the Center, I believe there is an exciting new chapter to be written as well, with a fresh start as a subsidiary of the National Trust, and I am counting on all of you to help make it the next “best idea” the Trust—or anyone else—has ever had.