Catherine Bergman, executive director of Hamilton County S.E.E.D., was one of 1,200 in attendance at the National Main Street Conference recently held in Baltimore. Nearly 50 Iowans attended the annual conference focused upon revitalizing downtown.
Among the featured guests at the opening plenary was the Secretary of the Maryland Department of Planning, who was quoted as saying "Strong Main Streets are the cornerstone of strong communities."
The 2012 State of Main Street address was given by Doug Loescher, director of the National Main Street Center, housed within the National Trust for Historic Preservation in Washington, D.C. Loescher reported on a survey in which half of the Main Street programs across the country responded with information about how the revitalization efforts are going. Two trends that came to the surface were 1) Main Street programs are going back to the basics and 2) Efforts are small but mighty.
Just what do these trends mean? Bergman said Main Street programs are taking a step back and revisiting the Four Point Approach. Leaders are returning to strategies that are basic to the methodology of Main Street. After being around for 25 years, the approach still works, and organizations benefit from balancing their efforts across the areas of organization, design, promotion and business improvement, she said.
One key component to implementing the Main Street Approach is to tackle efforts incrementally. Members of the JADE organization in Jewell are a prime example of focusing their efforts at renovating one building at a time and in the process bringing in businesses one by one, she said.
"In Hamilton County, one just has to look at Jewell and Stratford to see that utilizing the Main Street Four Point Approach has been successful,"?Bergman said. "In both communities, all available properties are occupied with viable businesses. Leaders are bringing about change one building and one business at a time. They are setting an example by modeling, 'Be the change you want to see in the world.'"