Downtown Strong Spotlight: Developing Local Main Street Organizations Support Businesses Be Seen and Grow Despite Adversity

May 31, 2022 | MO Main St.

The Downtown Strong: Building Resilient Economies grant is a grant provided by the U.S. Economic Development Administration through Missouri Main Street Connection (MMSC) that continues to impact Missouri communities. One of the recipients, Clinton Main Street, recently received their final deliverables. Clinton Main Street was awarded the Downtown Strong grant in 2021, which included two services that their Executive Director and Board of Directors identified as opportunities for the organization to enhance their capacity to serve their district and its business owners.

Clinton Main Street was able to turn the challenges of the COVID 19 pandemic into an opportunity to better connect with their businesses one-on-one.  This approach of intentional engagement with business owners in the downtown district during a time of economic uncertainty helped Clinton Main Street better understand their businesses and their needs. In addition, they were able to form a clear picture of the real strengths, opportunities, and areas where their organization needed help.  

The first service they received from the grant assisted them with their need for a robust building and business inventory. These two inventories would allow Clinton Main Street to better identify and document information about the businesses and properties in their district. Using the information gathered for these inventories allows for an accurate understanding of the district and easy accessibility to develop a recruitment plan that would seek businesses that fit their specific gaps. Jim Thompson, Downtown Economic Development Specialist from Iowa, was the consulting expert that worked with them and gave them the tools to do just that. Jim first conducted an on-site walking tour, then gave a presentation to staff, board, and volunteers that provided information and data specific to their community. On top of the presentation, he helped Clinton Main Street understand their market and learn new processes. When he left, they had the information needed to build their recruitment plan, more knowledge about how to use information, where to get information, and how to build and maintain a useful and relevant building and business inventory. Jim said of the district, “Clinton is an interesting example of quality downtown development opportunities.”

Example (above): The downtown map was originally provided as a proof to Downtown Waterloo by Jim Thompson and Main Street Iowa.


The second service that concluded their grant was the development of a Service Business Engagement Plan that would accomplish the goal of reaching the large number of service businesses in their district. Clinton Main Street worked with Dana Thomas, of BOLD Marketing, to develop this Service Business Engagement Plan. After an on-site visit, Dana worked with Clinton Main Street to identify strategies to better communicate the value proposition of Main Street as well as ways to better engage with service businesses specifically. These tactics included opportunities driven both by Main Street and by the businesses themselves. BOLD also identified ways for Main Street to assist the businesses through various trainings and support specific to the service industry, as well as trainings and support for all businesses in the district. In addition, BOLD provided creative graphic email assets to assist Clinton Main Street further in engaging their businesses.

Tina Williams, Clinton Main Street Director, says “The Downtown Strong Grant gave our organization the opportunity to assess what we needed and put plans in place to achieve those goals. We recognized we wanted better relationships with our service businesses but had no clue where to start. Working with Dana at BOLD was wonderful because she did background research to identify our needs, and gave us a clear plan to follow with lots of talking points, ideas, and data. Using this we can potentially bridge the gap and turn naysayers into our best defenders and assets! We have gone from clueless to informed, prepared, and ready in such a short time; we could not have achieved that on our own!”

The services included in this article were prepared by Missouri Main Street Connection, Inc. using Federal funds under award 05-79-06056 from Economic Development Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce. The statements, findings, conclusions, and recommendations are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Economic Development Administration or the U.S. Department of Commerce.

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