Looking Ahead to 2014: Letter from NMSC President and CEO

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Happy New Year! All of us at the National Main Street Center hope that you had a good holiday season with family and friends.

The start of the New Year – and reaching our six month anniversary as a subsidiary of the National Trust for Historic Preservation – offers an important moment to reflect on all that the National Main Street Center (NMSC) has accomplished in recent months, and to think ahead about our goals for 2014.

As described in more detail below, 2013 has been an exciting time, full of learning opportunities, organizational change, and planning for the future.  2014 will bring with it a marked shift in activity for NMSC, from much needed planning and organizational restructuring, to a renewed focus on NMSC’s program offerings and membership services.  While restructuring and planning have been essential – the very foundation on which we will build our new organization -- I know everyone at the National Main Street Center welcomes the opportunity to direct our attention in 2014 to the core of NMSC’s mission: our programs, services, and membership network.

2013 Recap

Since joining the Center, I’ve had the opportunity to visit 24 Main Streets, meet individually with 17 Coordinators in their home states or regions, and spend time with many more Coordinators at the fall meeting in Indianapolis. These visits offered an invaluable crash course on the successes and struggles of Main Streets  and I’m grateful to all of you for the time you’ve spent bringing me up to speed and sharing your ideas about the future of our Network.

This has also been a time of organizational transformation, including the relocation of our headquarters to Chicago, where the National Main Street program began more than 30 years ago. We’ve also introduced significant changes to our organizational structure; our new staffing configuration will help to better serve the Main Street Network, including Coordinators, designated Main Street Communities, Allied members, and other members who want to benefit from our shared expertise on commercial revitalization.

Finally, our strategic planning process is nearly complete and we’re grateful for the input so many of you have provided.  Our strategic plan, which is expected to be finalized later this month, reflects our mission of inspiring and enabling communities to create stronger and healthier Main Streets.  In the coming months and years, our focus will be directed on strengthening NMSC’s leadership of the Main Street Network, developing enhanced programs and services for our members, and growing our Network.  We’ll also strive to develop a sustainable business model and create an outstanding organizational structure to support this ambitious vision.

Looking Ahead to 2014

As we look ahead to 2014, three major priorities top the list:

• Renewed Focus on Members: From Coordinating Programs, to designated Main Street communities, to Allied Members and beyond, we’re dedicated to improving your membership experience.  Look for a number of important improvements to the membership program in 2014, including faster response times for routine member questions, a new policy of providing all NMSC publications free with memberships, and much more.

Assessment of Main Street Approach:  The Main Street approach has been tremendously effective over the last 30+ years – spurring $55 billion in investment in America’s downtowns and neighborhood commercial districts. Yet we know that the commercial revitalization needs of communities have evolved significantly over the last three decades, especially in the areas of transportation and pedestrian planning, development of downtown housing, and attracting 21st Century entrepreneurs. In 2014, we’ll undertake an assessment of the Main Street Four Point Approach, 8 Principles and 10 Criteria to ask important questions about if – and how – these three signature elements of the Main Street program should evolve to address new challenges and opportunities in revitalization.

New Program Development and Implementation:  In 2014, National Main Street Center will introduce an exciting new program called “AmericaSaves!” In partnership with the Preservation Green Lab, this project will provide $250,000  in grant funding to select Designated Main Street Communities for participation in important data collection efforts and energy efficiency improvements.  Look for other high value new programs to become available in 2014 as well.

All of us look forward to working with you in the coming year as we develop a stronger, more effective National Main Street Center.  As always, I welcome your thoughts and questions – feel free to reach me at pfrey@savingplaces.org.

Warm regards,
Patrice