For some time now we’ve been talking about rewriting the narrative of rural Minnesota. A year ago, we shared Ben Winchester’s video presentation regarding how Economic Development strategies have changed to accommodate our diverse mix. “The rural MN ‘picture’ is changing… still healthy, just different.”
Malls and expanding business districts have changed peoples shopping habits resulting in many small towns asking themselves what they can do to draw people back to ‘Main Street’. Keep in mind, statistics show consumers decide within 3 to 5 seconds if they are going to enter a store. The first question needs to be ~ “Is our downtown really what we want it to be?”
This focus has spurred a wave of community action initiatives. This is great! However, far too often a lack of focus, a clear/unified vision and limited funds lead to frustrated volunteers and business owners. Which brings us to the second question ~ ‘‘What makes sense and are we committed to pursuing this?”
Several local communities have found a resource to help them build a successful game plan… The Minnesota Main Street Program provides participating local Main Street organizations with the training, tools, information, and networking they need to be successful in their downtown revitalization efforts. According to the Minnesota Main Street website:
Minnesota Main Street
The first Minnesota Main Street program was founded in 1981, and remained active for over a decade. Although the state program was eventually defunded, many local Main Street programs had already been established and demand for Main Street services remained. A small nonprofit called Hometown Minnesota, though not affiliated with NTMSC, continued to promote the Main Street Approach and provided limited training and technical support to communities across the state. In 2007, several Minnesota communities rallied to once again form an official Main Street program and in 2010, the new statewide coordinating program, Minnesota Main Street was born.
The new Minnesota Main Street is a program of the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota (PAM), and is recognized by the National Trust Main Street Center® as the official statewide coordinating program in Minnesota. The Minnesota Main Street Program has been financed in part with funds provided by the State of Minnesota from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund through the Minnesota Historical Society.
Northey has found that a successful Main Street Project requires total community buy in and coordination. As reported by Aaron Hagen of the Daily Globe:
“I won’t say the only great towns are towns with Main Street programs, but the Main Street programs are a really good tool to help a community make their downtown to be what they really want it to be,” Northey said.
“In some communities, some work around the four points — design, organization, promotion and economic restructuring — has been happening,” she said. “It’s not necessarily being done with a common goal. Sometimes there is overlap, there are opportunities that are missed.
“The Main Street program is a really great way to take advantages of all the work that’s already happening and also to give more structure for what else can be done,” Northey added.
You may be wondering… why do I care?
I’m not a Main Street business owner so how does this concern me? As reported by Aaron Hagen, Daily Globe:
While the program is named after Main Street, that doesn’t mean the ideas and concepts can’t be used in other parts of town.
“While Main Street focuses on the downtown district, it’s all inclusive to the rest of the community in the concepts the volunteers learn,” Northey said. “Why is it all inclusive? Because everyone’s affected by Main Street.”
At Worthington’s Considering Main Steet gathering, Northey advised against making changes that ‘don’t make sense’ or don’t fit with the historical integrity of the community. She also suggested grouping like stores to make comparison shopping easier for shoppers. Each Main Street needs to find the mix that’s right for their needs. As usual, no one solution works for all communities. So some homework is required. As reported by Jeanne Schram of the Aiktin newspaper:
Northey said the ground rules for Main Street are: economic development, historic preservation, commercial development, it is all-inclusive and its concepts transfer to the entire community.
When businesses in a town are not thriving, improvements and repairs tend not to take place or receive cheap fixes.
“It’s a long-term commitment,” said Northey. “Great downtowns don’t happen by mistake.”
Ready to get started?!
Communities interested in becoming Designated Main Street Programs should review our application materials and learn more about this downtown revitalization method. We accept applications on a rolling basis, however only a limited number of programs are accepted each year.
For the 8 principles, examples of community success stories, usefull statitics, more information about the Minnesota Main Street Program and other PAM programs, visit http://www.mnpreservation.org/programs/main-street/about-main-street/
Communities already participating:
Designated Main Street Programs:
Faribault, New Ulm, Red Wing, Willmar, Winona.
Associate Member Programs:
City of Albert Lea
Amboy Community Club
Austin Main Street Project
Lakes Area Development Association (Battle Lake)
Belle Plaine Chamber of Commerce
Cambridge Area Chamber of Commerce
City of Dassel
City of Fergus Falls
City of Hastings
Litchfield Heritage Preservation Commission
City Center Partnership (Mankato)
Northfield Downtown Development Corporation
Park Rapids Downtown Business Association
Redwood Area Chamber & Tourism
City of Sauk Centre
Shakopee Chamber & Visitor’s Bureau
Spring Valley Chamber of Commerce and EDA
St. Cloud Downtown
Greater Stillwater Chamber of Commerce
City of Wabasha
Worthington Area Chamber of Commerce