Becoming Main Street 2.0 was the theme for the National Main Streets Conference recently attended by Hamilton County SEED Director Catherine Bergman. More than 1,600 professional downtown managers and program volunteers attended the event held in Chicago. Sessions at the conference educated attendees about ways to utilize today's technology resources in the day-to-day operations of economic development organizations.
National Main Street Center Director Doug Loescher gave the "State of Main Street" address that included results of the annual Main Street trends survey. Loescher stated, "Main Street CAN thrive in a down economy." According to the survey results, America's Main Street communities saw twice the number of business openings as closings in 2008 in spite of capital becoming more difficult to obtain. Another positive brought out in the survey was that while national retail chains saw sales drop between 8 and 25 percent in 2008, independent retailers' sales dropped 5 percent, and independents with shop local campaigns had a sales drop of only 2 percent.
Unfortunately, the outlook for merchants remains bleak with the continued forecast of lower sales. The predicted amount of sales decrease depends on the source one heeds: The National Retail Federation gives smaller drops of 1-2 percent while Kennedy Smith of Community Land Use and Economics Group estimates continued dramatic sales drops for years to come. National Trust for Historic Preservation Vice President David Brown gave a glimmer of hope in his comments saying, "The pain of recession is temporary, but our goal of downtown revitalization is long-lasting."
Hamilton County SEED Director Catherine Bergman enjoyed a taste of Chicago at the National Main Street Conference.
Leaders in the Hamilton County communities of Ellsworth, Jewell and Stratford have embraced the principles of the Main Street Four Point Approach, and after using the technique for more than 15 years, are realizing success, according to Bergman.
"That's not to say it's been easy," Bergman said, in reference to the hard work that volunteers in the three communities have given over the years. Leaders have committed time, talent and dollars to projects that have dramatically improved the economy of their communities. Those efforts have results in more than $3 million in public and private investment in the downtowns of Hamilton County.
For more information about the Main Street Four Point Approach and economic development in Hamilton County contact Catherine Bergman at firstname.lastname@example.org or 515-832-9575.