Letter from the President: The National Main Street Center's New Strategic Plan

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Dear Main Street Members,

As you know, we’ve been making some changes recently, both to serve members better and to ensure the long-term success of the National Main Street Center. Since we re-launched as a nonprofit subsidiary of the National Trust in July 2013, we have brought in a committed new board, worked to balance the budget and restructured our organization. Perhaps most importantly, we also went on a listening tour around the country to gather feedback from our members about what they most need and want to see from the National Main Street Center.

Based on extensive feedback from the Network, our Board, and staff, we crafted a new strategic plan, which I’m very excited to share with you today. The Center elected to go with a one-page plan strategic planning process in order to better clarify our goals and strategies.   We hope you’ll agree that this simple one-pager helps to explain our mission, strategies and goals — and offers helpful information about our plans for executing our strategies and achieving our goals.   You can view the strategic plan here.

As stated in the plan, our updated mission is to inspire and enable leaders to build strong communities through investments in their historic and distinctive places. That means we want to connect local leaders — including professional downtown managers, community activists, city council members, mayors, city managers and others — with the tools and programs they need to succeed.  We want to help people build strong communities, which means not just economically healthy but resilient places with a diverse business mix and vibrant public spaces that bring people together. Finally, we want to put economic and social capital to work restoring Main Streets using preservation-based revitalization strategies.

To accomplish our mission, we’re working closely with Main Street Coordinators Managers, Allied Members, and other partners to improve the programming we’re offering, develop an engaged and growing network of members and advance investments in the communities we serve. Our five-prong approach involves strategies to elevate and refine our leadership position, programming, membership, business model and organizational structure.


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From a leadership perspective, we are working to establish the Center as the foremost national advocate for Main Street revitalization. That means building the brand, improving communication within our network and cultivating strategic external partnerships. For example, we often hear Main Street managers say they need help increasing the visibility of their program. Over the next 12 months, we’re planning to explore the creation of signage for Main Streets around the country. That will identify our communities as part of a common network — and build national visibility.  It’s also essential to recognize the outstanding work of our Main Street communities across the country. We’re very excited to announce this year’s Great American Main Street Award winners in Detroit, and we’ve developed a new award category this year that we are eager to unveil.  Finally, we’re working on several national partnerships, including one with the Preservation Green Lab to bring $4 million to improve energy efficiency and save money on Main Streets.

From a programmatic standpoint, we’re working to advance investments in Main Streets, add new programs and enhance our existing resources. In the short-term, this involves putting all of our publications online, free to members. Several publications have already been made available online, and there are more to come. Members will also have free access to the Innovation Lab webinar series we’re bringing back, which will cover everything from successful board management to effective event planning to navigating the challenges of downtown parking — and much, much more. In the longer-term, we’re planning to refresh and modernize the language and concepts we use in the Four-Point Approach and bring more educational and training opportunities to our members.

After programs, our next key strategy is to build tomorrow’s network. That requires a renewed focus on existing members, with efforts like I’ve just described, as well as an expanded effort to bring in new members. We know that the Main Street approach is incredibly effective — and that there are hundreds if not thousands of other local leaders across the country who can benefit immensely from the resources and expertise we offer. This benefits all of us, since new people bring new, fresh ideas that help keep our work cutting-edge. And a larger, more diverse network will also make it easier to demonstrate far-reaching national impact and attract corporate support or philanthropic donations to support our efforts.

While we work to provide better services to existing members and attract new members, we are also working internally to create a sustainable business model and achieve organizational excellence. We’re committed to diversifying the Center’s revenue and are aggressively cultivating more philanthropic support for the Center, while developing corporate sponsorships that will bring additional resource to our members. We’re making key hires, tripling the number of number of staff in our membership department and bringing in some very experienced Main
Street leaders.

With our new strategic plan in hand, we’re more committed and better positioned than ever to support and advance Main Streets around the country. Our vision is to cultivate an ever-growing network of communities that aren’t just surviving, but thriving. It’s a new day for Main Street, and with our new, independent role and an incredible network of members, the future is very bright. I look forward to great things happening on Main Streets in 2014 and beyond.

Warm regards,
Patrice