MMSC Staff Visits Boston

Lessons Learned - Reflections From The Other Side

April 13, 2023 | Logan Breer

Missouri Main Street Connection staff and several board members visited Boston for the 2023 Main Street Now conference. This annual conference is a time where local Main Street programs from across the country, and sometimes international guests, convene to hear other local Main Street directors, consultants, and stakeholders present educational sessions on new initiatives to implement the Main Street Approach™ to revitalize local Main Street districts and their economies. This year Main Street America delivered a fantastic conference by curating brilliant speakers to learn from. There were many great ideas and new perspectives that Missouri Main Street Connection is bringing back with them.

Michigan Main Street and Gayla, MMSC Director

Pictured above left to right: Michael Wagler, Iowa Main Street; Laura Krizov, Michigan Main Street Center; Darrel Young, Main Street America; Gayla Roten, Missouri Main Street Connection.

Our State Coordinator, Gayla Roten, alongside Michigan Main Street Center’s State Coordinator, Laura Krizov, were recognized for their multiple terms of service on the Coordinator Leadership Council. The award was presented by Michael Wagler, Iowa Main Street, and Darrel Young, Main Street America.

The MMSC staff, board, and volunteers attended incredible sessions that enabled them to better serve Missouri’s Main Street communities. They had major takeaways from attending conference that they want to share with you.

Gayla Roten
As the state Main Street program, we are continually educating our local Main Street programs about the importance of the roles and responsibilities of a Main Street Board of Directors. We give examples of the benefit of a working board over a governing board and why a working board is vital to the success of the Main Street organization.

I am delighted to share that the Missouri Main Street Board of Directors are an amazing working board. They just don’t talk about it, but they are leading by example. They have made a substantial commitment to Missouri Main Street network communities and districts we serve every day.

This is shown through their unwavering dedication, we had four of our board members and one Advisory member attend the Main Street Now conference in Boston and three of these members also attended two training days prior to the conference with the State Coordinators around the United States. This gave them real-time exposure to the Main Street movement around the nation, each of them learned new best practices and received new insight in community revitalization. Our Board President Bob Lewis, Vice-President Chris Johnston, Immediate Past President Steven Hoffman, Board Member Russ Volmert, and Advisory Member Erika Hagan attended alongside the Missouri Main Street team.

I am so thankful for such a dedicated Missouri Main Street Board of Directors that’s leading a National-recognized Main Street organization into the future for Missouri.

Logan Breer – The Endless Opportunity for All on Main Street to Live Life to the Fullest

In abundance or scarcity, it is about the people and their mindset fixed on what is possible that determines the outcome rather than what has happened in the past. Conference was full of examples of innovation, overcoming adversity, activities, and excitement which showed that local Main Street programs are making an impact on the vibrancy of their districts and surrounding communities including everyone. I saw implementation in the activation of an empty lot left by fire through temporary programming that brought young and old, singles and families. As well as excitement from what Main Street Sweetwater, TN shared about their 2017 solar eclipse experience, with approximately 50,000k visitors, in preparation for the 2024 solar eclipse in which the path of totality travels over Cape Girardeau, MO.

Keith Winge
The thing I most like about attending the Main Street Now conferences is the diversity of sessions and topics. I can always find something that is a new trend, it could be a session on a basic principle as a refresher, or a new idea related to that principle. In fact, my problem is there are usually 2-3 sessions that I am interested in that are taking place at the same time. The conference always fills my mind…and heart…with ideas for the upcoming year.

City of Boston

Pictured above: Area in Boston taken by MMSC Staff during their exploration of the city.

Ben White
The Main Street Now Conference is such a great opportunity to learn from professionals with diverse experiences and backgrounds. These sessions and conversations enable local programs and Missouri Main Street Connection to bring back resources for continued economic development in Missouri communities. The energy from this conference truly is contagious and is such a great opportunity to network with other programs across the nation. Boston, with its storied, historic past, provided the perfect backdrop for these conservations, and I am already excited to go again in Alabama in 2024!

Katelyn Brotherton
The Main Street Now conference is such a rewarding experience to see so many states and local communities take the same concept – the Main Street Approach™ – and apply it so uniquely and effectively to their individual circumstances and needs. The Main Street Approach™ can be tailored to fit any situation and need. Learning from each other is the true beauty of the Main Street network and having the opportunity to do so on a national scale is so exciting and inspiring. I always try to seek out sessions that highlight the work done in communities in other states just to be able to hear what they are doing and how they are accomplishing it to help bring those ideas back to Missouri for our programs. In addition to the sessions, the conference is invaluable for the time it allows us to spend with like-minded people who are also dedicated to implementing Main Street, which this year was over 1900 people! Connecting with new faces across the country, but also having dedicated time to learn with our attendees from Missouri, is so worthwhile.

Pictured above left to right: Bob Lewis and Gayla Roten volunteering as Downtown Experts at Main Street America’s Dr. Downtown booth for Main Street Now attendees to get professional advice.

Pictured above front to back: Dr. Steven Hoffman, Russ Volmert, Chris Johnston, Janet Hlavacek, and Bob Lewis at Cheers for MMSC’s state dinner.

Chris Johnston
As Vice-President of MMSC, I got the opportunity to travel to Boston with the staff, attend informative conference sessions, and make new friends. As part of conference, Main Street America offers tours that allow you to explore the surrounding history and see the amazing architecture. I had an amazing time with Main Street friends on the Freedom Trail.

Steven Hoffman
Each year I am inspired by the work of so many people in communities across the country who devote themselves to making their communities better. Watching the GAMSA awards is particularly emotional for me, seeing communities transformed and improved while remembering when I walked across the stage in Atlanta when Cape Girardeau won the award. It is so rewarding to see the results of the work people are doing in their communities, and it invigorates me to know that collectively we are making a positive change in the world. Each year I am also impressed with the collaborative spirit that everyone has, willing to share ideas and help one another succeed. Sitting in the coordinators meetings and seeing the respect and admiration other coordinators have for the Missouri program makes me so proud of our Missouri team and what we are able to accomplish working together in community.

Margaret Waterman
My big takeaway is the power of passion and the commitment to positive change, which I witnessed among attendees, speakers, and even exhibitors, and the steps people took to cultivate relationship (Missouri at Cheers!).  I was especially moved by artist Janell Nelson of the Englewood Arts Collective, Chicago. Her session “Engaging Community through Visual Communication” illustrated her group’s passion for “values-aligned projects with purpose”.  She talked about using many elements of graphic design and branding to “cultivate joy” and engage residents in designing and making a new gateway mural to their South Side neighborhood.   She and the project were inspirational to my work on the Design Committee at Old Town Cape!

Conferences are great places to learn new things from other attendees, the location of the conference, and the speakers. Missouri Main Street Connection thanks Main Street America for hosting Main Street Now annually for our staff, board, and local communities to learn and gather inspiration. If you missed attending Main Street Now in 2023 you can join Missouri Main Street Connection in St. Louis in July for the Missouri’s Premier Downtown Revitalization Conference to experience conference while you wait for next year to go to Birmingham, Alabama for the 2024 Main Street Now conference.

Margaret Waterman

Pictured above: Margaret Waterman at the Big Bash hosted at the New England Aquarium.