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A HISTORY OF PRESERVATION
AND REVITALIZATION

Our Mission

Missouri Main Street Connection is the leading statewide nonprofit organization devoted to preservation-based economic development. Through the Main Street America™ movement and our partners, we empower community revitalization by celebrating, supporting, and sustaining Missouri historic commercial districts in both rural and urban settings. 

Our Vision

Missouri Main Street communities and districts are thriving and vibrant by engaging the community members in revitalization strategies to create experiences that preserve their history and culture.

A History of Preservation and Revitalization

Today, Missouri Main Street Connection (MMSC) oversees the preservation-based downtown revitalization movement in Missouri with a dedicated team by making available the Main Street Approach™ available to any community in Missouri. The goal of our organization from the very beginning has been to educate and empower communities to lead the revitalization of their downtowns and neighborhood commercial districts using economic development within the context of historic preservation.

As a result of MMSC’s mission and vision, programming, and hosting the Main Street Now conference in 2018, we have been recognized by other states across the nation as one of the first statewide Main Street programs to be successful as a non-profit organization. Other states model their programs after MMSC in order to take their state programs out from under government budgets and control. Additionally, Missouri Main has been shown to be successful by PlaceEconomics’ 2016 report which concluded that “Nationally, Main Street has proven to be the singularly most cost-effective program of economic development of any kind, and Missouri Main Street communities are demonstrating why that is true.” These marks of honor come after many years and countless efforts to serve more than 180 Missouri communities with training, consulting services, conferences, newsletters, and publications.

MMSC continues to be the state’s clearinghouse for community and downtown revitalilzation information, technical assistance, mentoring, and advocacy. Our staff has dedicated years to assisting communities with their inquiries as to how they can improve their economic, social, and cultural health. Our current MMSC Board of Directors is a diverse group, representing all regions of the State made up of Main Street professionals, revitalization and preservation specialists, professors, attorneys, bankers, legislators, and Missouri Department of Economic Development staff members and is assisted by an Advisory Board. They are a working board, meet quarterly, and are involved in all areas of MMSC work.

1989 Early Start with Limited Resources
The State of Missouri launched a state-funded downtown revitalization program officially known as Missouri Main Street Program (MMSP) in 1989. This program was based upon the Main Street Approach™ that was developed by the National Trust for Historic Preservation Main Street Center. Five communities were selected to participate in a three-year pilot program. State staff from the Missouri Department of Economic Development (DED) provided training, mentoring, and accreditation for local Main Street programs in the pilot program.
1990 Growth & Struggle
In 1990, the MMSP, under the Missouri Department of Economic Development, accepted another five communities into the three-year pilot program. The ten programs included: Cape Girardeau, Carthage, Chillicothe, Clarksville, Clinton, Fayette, Lee’s Summit, Washington, Warrensburg, and West Plains. Later that year, the state program became limited in resources following a state budget emergency that reduced the program's funding. With decreased funding, the program’s capacity to administer training and assessments was hindered. As a result, until 2002, there were no more than 12 programs at a given time.
2003 Hope Amidst Adversity
As a result of further budget cuts, state funding was eliminated for the MMSP at the Missouri Department of Economic Development. In 2003, local program managers came together to discuss the importance of keeping the Main Street program alive in Missouri. These local program managers felt that continued revitalization training and mentoring was crucial to the survival of the downtowns in many small communities across the state.
2004 First
Statewide Meeting
The first meeting of local Main Street managers was called to order in January of 2004. The small group of local Main Street managers that had formed discussed the issue of funding. More funding was needed as the newly formed contract from mid-2003 with the National Main Street Center (NMSC) and DED would not provide all the services needed by Missouri communities. Additionally, they saw the need for more communities to have access to revitalization training and service in order to help the many rapidly declining downtowns across the state that they had observed over the past several years. Following this inaugural meeting a “Basic Training Workshop” was held in Clinton, MO. Twenty-five people attended that meeting making it clear more communities wanted help with their downtown revitalization efforts.
2005 Early History
2005 Formation of the Nonprofit Missouri Main Street Connection
Missouri Main Street Connection was formed as a nonprofit 501(c)3 corporation by nine Main Street Program managers in late December 2005. They were the ones leading the charge to revive the Main Street program in Missouri and decided the best way to advocate for themselves as well as other Missouri communities was to undertake the statewide coordinating program on their own.
2005 Early History
2006 timeline photo
2006 Humble Beginnings
During the first several years, the managers served as the initial Board of Directors. They met bi-weekly in towns throughout the state for strategic planning. Following the strategic planning sessions, the managers and Sheri Stuart, then with National Main Street Center, conducted revitalization workshops for anyone to attend.
2006 timeline photo
2007 Gayla Roten first director hired photo
2007 First State Director
MMSC had grown enough that a state director and executive assistant were needed to oversee the work the organization was accomplishing and assist the Board of Directors. Gayla Roten, who was a founding board member and local manager of Branson Downtown Main Street Association, was hired in November of 2007. With her, Phyllis Vandernaald joined MMSC as Executive Assistant.
2007 Gayla Roten first director hired photo
2008 Diversified Funding timeline photo
2008 Diversified Funding & Board of Directors to Support Missouri
MMSC was able to provide technical services, quarterly workshops, and organizational training to Accredited and Associate tier communities, after receiving the Neighborhood Assistance Program (NAP) Grant and after a successful fundraising campaign of the MMSC board and state director. Additionally, Dr. Steven Hoffman was elected to president of MMSC’s Board of Directors which expanded and diversified the backgrounds, professions, and experience represented by the board.
2008 Diversified Funding timeline photo
2009 First State Conference
MMSC added a statewide three-day conference culminating in an awards banquet to recognize the hard work and achievements by all Missouri Main Street programs in 2009.
2010 Quarterly Workshops Established
Quarterly workshops were established as a yearly practice to offer historic commercial districts and Main Street communities across the state access to preservation-based economic development education. A minimum of two quarterly workshops would be offered annually in addition to the downtown revitalization conference and other workshops as grants allowed.
2010 Curated Programming timeline photo
2010 Curated Programming for Missouri Communities
The Affiliate Grant program was launched in 2010 as a new service. Communities could apply to MMSC for a two-year 60/40 matching grant that helped them develop their Main Street program. This would later become known as the Community Empowerment Grant (CEG). Additionally, MMSC’s network had grown to have 18 communities with a program agreement in the top three tiers and broader representation on the Board of Directors.
2010 Curated Programming timeline photo
2011 Main Street Advocacy at the State Capitol Begins
Main Street Capitol Day was started in 2011 by MMSC as a way to engage with Missouri legislators. Local Executive Directors, board members, and MMSC staff met with legislators to share the impact of Main Streets across Missouri. This evolved into an annual event that sees dozens of Main Street delegates visit the State Capitol sharing not only their local impact as a Main Street program but how MMSC assists them in cultivating a thriving, vibrant community.
2012 Dedication to Long Term Community Vibrancy
MMSC had been collecting quarterly performance reports over the previous 6 years. 2012 was the year the economic data reported by 21 communities boomed following the Great Recession in 2008. The largest recorded public and private investment, at that time, was recorded at 55.9 million in public and private investment. Additionally, many other stats from the MMSC network set records with 72 net new businesses, 160 net new jobs, 43,314 volunteer hours and 149 buildings saved. 2012 was a big year because local Main Street programs never stopped working despite the uncertainty of the economic conditions of that time and supported their historic commercial districts and local businesses.
2013 Unique Fundraising Efforts Continued
During MMSC’s annual conference, known formerly as Get Plugged In…Downtown Annual Revitalization Conference, MMSC’s staff provides local Main Street programs examples of unique fundraising opportunities as inspiration. MMSC debuted The Boys on the Block Main Street Calendar in 2013. The calendar included photos of those that won the most votes from purchased tickets. Each photo was submitted by local programs of a cool historic building and included one or more men (aged infant to senior).
2014 Expanded MMSC Facilities
With a growing team, MMSC moved its office in 2014. The expanded space allows for more flexibility in hosting New Directors’ Training, Main Street Summit, local community staff retreats, and a variety of other services which individuals from local programs across the state attend in Branson.
2015 Curated Programming for Missouri Communities Expanded
The People Energizing Places and Strategic Teams Engaging People Grant programs began in 2015 as a new service. Communities and historic commercial districts can apply to MMSC for one or two-year grants that can be customized to address their needs.
MMSC 10-Year Celebration Video
2016 Celebrating 10 Years
MMSC celebrated its 10-year anniversary in 2016. A special anniversary celebration was held at the annual conference, hosted directly in a Main Street community – Downtown Washington, Inc., which brought together many supporters and champions for MMSC from throughout our history to commemorate how far we had come and continue to go.
MMSC 10-Year Celebration Video
2017 Delivering Exceptional Services to Missouri Communities
MMSC continued to grow over the years adding more staff and capacity to support the growing network of historic commercial districts who were requesting services and educational opportunities from MMSC. Master planning services were added to MMSC’s capacity and first delivered to Downtown Marceline Foundation.
2018 Hosting MMSC
2018 Hosting
Main Street Now
The annual Main Street Now national conference was hosted in Kansas City. MMSC was chosen to host the Main Street Now national conference by Main Street America. Bringing a national conference to Missouri with attendance of over 1,600 had a significant impact on Kansas City and Missouri as a whole.
2018 Hosting MMSC
2019 St. Louis Dutchtown timeline photo
2019 St. Louis Main Streets Program Created
MMSC’s Board of Directors and staff saw the need for bringing the Main Street Approach™ to St. Louis after their frequent attendance at our workshops and conferences as well as conversations with our staff. A special Urban Main Committee was formed to discuss and plan how to use the framework that Main Street America was using through its UrbanMain™ program for specific programming that MMSC would deliver through countless onsite visits with the districts.
2019 St. Louis Dutchtown timeline photo
Investing in Local Leadership timeline photo
2019 Investing in Local Leadership
Following the Spring Quarterly Workshop in Moberly, MO, a new tradition was started for MMSC’s network when full-time local directors and their board presidents joined MMSC’s staff and executive board on the first ever Directors’ Expedition. This Directors’ Expedition took the directors to Iowa where they met with local Main Street programs selected by Iowa Main Street and MMSC. This was an amazing opportunity for local directors to expand their thinking and learn about innovative projects and initiatives to bring home to their local communities. This launched a rotation of programming that MMSC offers exclusively to full-time executive directors that provides leadership development and Main Street experiences through every two years hosting either a Directors’ Retreat or Expedition at no cost to them.
Investing in Local Leadership timeline photo
4 Ways to Connect during Covid-19
2020 Weathering COVID-19
The COVID-19 global pandemic changed the way MMSC did business as we quickly mobilized to support local Main Street programs and small businesses weather the impacts of the pandemic as it began in early 2020. The staff of MMSC worked from home and developed new programming to deliver education virtually about Main Street to new communities including weekly Mornings on Main webinars, We Care Calls for Directors, Four Ways to Connect campaign, a Facebook group called Downtown Chat, virtual meetings, and specific resources and guidelines in a COVID-19 online library.
4 Ways to Connect during Covid-19
Downtown Strong map for timeline
2021 Awarded Grant by the U.S Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Agency
MMSC was awarded a $555,733 CARES Act Economic Adjustment Assistance grant which was matched with $157,938 in local investment. This grant funded Missouri Main Street Connection’s Downtown Strong: Building Resilient Economies program that focused on supporting & strengthening local small businesses found in historic districts in Missouri’s Main Streets as well as the local Main Street organizations to weather future potential economic hardships by strengthening their resiliency. Twelve consultants were utilized to deliver 200 services to 16 nonprofits and 63 small businesses.
Downtown Strong map for timeline
2021 Bicentennial Celebration timeline photo
2021 Celebrating Missouri's Bicentennial Across Missouri
Through a grant received from the Missouri Humanities Council, MMSC distributed statewide Bicentennial Passports highlighting events in Missouri Main Street communities celebrating the Missouri Bicentennial throughout 2021. This passport invited everyone to get out, sightsee, and witness the past come to life through murals, historic sites, museums, architecture, events, and shopping. MMSC hosted a prize raffle giveaway for individuals who submitted their stamped passports. This celebration of Missouri’s Bicentennial was an outstanding success.
2021 Bicentennial Celebration timeline photo
2021 Celebrating
1 Billion & Rising
Missouri’s Main Street communities collect and report economic data and other statistics to MMSC on a quarterly basis. In 2021, MMSC celebrated Missouri communities cumulative total of $1 billion in public and private investment since starting to record that data in 2006. In just a short 15 years, Missouri’s Main Street communities have done a fantastic job at district and downtown revitalization.
2022 Entrepreneurial Grant to St. Louis Main Streets Districts
2022 Entrepreneurial & Equitable Development Service Delivered to St. Louis Main Streets Districts
MMSC received an Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation Central Standards grant in 2021 to deliver specialized services to the Main Street programs participating in the St. Louis Main Streets pilot program. Over two years, MMSC delivered specialized services to local business owners, resident of St. Louis, and the St. Louis Main Streets programs through an entrepreneurial and equity development workshop series and other specialized trainings.
2022 Entrepreneurial Grant to St. Louis Main Streets Districts
Paul Bruhn Subgrant Program logo
2023 Awarded
Paul Bruhn Historic Revitalization Grant
MMSC was awarded the Paul Bruhn Historic Revitalization grant in late 2023. This grant allows MMSC to award subgrants to historic property owners for historic rehabilitation projects that follow the Secretary of Interior’s standards. MMSC announced during the fall quarterly workshop of 2023 this grant opportunity and began sharing information about the grant application that would take place in 2024. View the one pager MMSC staff put together about this grant opportunity.
Paul Bruhn Subgrant Program logo

History of the MMSC Logo

Over the years Missouri Main Street Connection’s logo has gone through various revisions. From our roots to the modern iteration, MMSC’s logo boldly takes inspiration from historical features of Main Streets to incorporate them into an iconic visual representing our organization’s mission and vision.

Timeline logo 1

2005

MMSC’s first logo was established in 2005 by the founding board of directors of Missouri Main Street Connection after formalizing MMSC as its own 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.

MMSC Timeline logo 2 - Celebrating 10 Years

2015-2016

This logo rendition celebrated Missouri Main Street Connection’s 10-year anniversary.

MMSC timeline logo 3

November 2016 – Present

MMSC’s current logo was created by Downtown Lee’s Summit Main Street, Inc. and Fossil Forge. They won the statewide competition MMSC hosted to collaborate with our network for our new logo. The design represents the physical and human connection of the Missouri Main Street program and its communities. It highlights the diversity of experiences available in Missouri communities from the colorful blocks representing the prairies, forests, farms, and rural patches of our state and forming the pattern of bricks and stone, which are key building blocks to our modern and historic towns and cities to the grid between the blocks representing the roads, connections, and intersections of our main streets and town squares. Missouri Main Street Connection’s center placement in the state illustrates how we strive to bring all Missouri communities together.

2021 -2022

This logo rendition celebrated the outstanding accomplishments of Missouri’s Main Streets that raised $1 billion in public and private investment together over 15 years. Our staff selected this tagline “1 billion & rising” to accompany our current logo to celebrate this accomplishment and how our communities will continue to rise into our future.