Those of you that are familiar with the Main Street concept understand that we have a four point strategic approach. The four points are:
Organization- Capacity Building, volunteer recruitment, grass roots training, fund raising, membership, branding and community promotion
Promotion- Events, activities, marketing and branding to either build consumer traffic in the immediate area or act as “cash register ringers”.
Design- The aesthetics and usage of an area is critical to its long term success. Materials used, building heights, condition of amenities and a preservation ethic all contribute to the vitality of an area.
Business Enhancement- A community needs to have a realistic view of its market capacity, and it needs to have plausible strategies to grow the local economy in a sustainable manner through education, logistical support and incentives.
Those four points have served us pretty well over the past twenty-five years at Emporia Main Street, but new data is emerging that suggests we could be even more effective by rethinkingelements of the strategic approach. Just because something used to work, doesn’t mean it will in the future. In economic and community development, you look forward and try and intersect with trends, not backwards. If we tried to run the Emporia Main Street organization the same way we did in 1991, it simply wouldn’t be as effective as it is today. Thus, the refresh.
The new Four Point Approach is vastly more organic and works at a faster pace. It is designed to bring all related teams together to exert a multifaceted approach on a few core issues. The first part of the new Four Point approach is opportunity/threat identification through the lens of a community’s unique assets and individual issues. Although many will point to a neighboring community and say “why don’t we do THAT” in response to whatever initiative is working for its market, intelligent community and economic development officials understand that each community is unique. While certain strategies are somewhat universal, each community must engage challenges and opportunities with a realistic and honest understanding.
Once the threats and opportunities are identified, each point team devises plans to solve for a mitigationof the threat or seizing the opportunity from their point perspective. For example, if a community had a large employment center in their downtown, the promotions team may look for events that targeted employees before work, at lunch and after work to retain dollars within the area. The design team may look for areas or amenities that could accommodate those employees, and create unique spaces that encouraged them to stay and spend. The business enhancement team would study the best ways to address the area workers, develop incentives to encourage employees to participate in the aforementioned activities and follow up with a survey to improve performance. The organization team would recruit and train volunteers for activities while looking for ways to make the new activity financially sustainable. Collectively, all the point teams would develop metrics to determine the effectiveness of the initiative.
Through different perspectives, the end result of an activity should be more effective in producing a positive result. I say “should” because there are other elements that are important in discussing the four point refresh. The initial activity doesn’t have to be perfect. We don’t have to plan every last minute of everything we do. The important thing to remember is that we have to constantly try new things and create visible momentum to push (or drag, or pull) the community forward.
Successful communities must have a strong and growing entrepreneurial base, and organizations cannot effectively engage entrepreneurs if they don’t act entrepreneurial themselves. This means that workplans don’t just get set once a year without consideration of other opportunities. Budgets need room and flexibility to change to intersect with opportunities or mitigate threats. There needs to be a whole lot more problem solving and less word smithing. Processes aren’t nearly as important as results. Titles don’t matter and organizations need to experiment. Failures will most definitely occur, and a lack of failures point to a lack of creativity, productivity and willingness to try new things.
The idea behind to new Four Point refresh is to prioritize “catalyst strategies”. From the Emporia Main Street perspective, this is something we’ve internally referred to as “capacity building”. By investing resources into areas where you can generate more resources, a community becomes more effective over time. If you invest resources in areas that pull resources out of a community, or you invest resources in areas that simply use more resources without building capacity, a community has less resources over time. It sounds simple, but many communities don’t change strategy to emphasize capacity builders because of lack of political will, market understanding, community support or the short term nature of the modern thought process.
If you are a member of one of our committees, you will hear a lot more about the Four Point refresh during upcoming team meetings. If you aren’t a member of a committee, now is the time to get involved. Emporia Main Street has a solid track record of making visible, positive and sustainable changes in our community. Now is the time to get involved in taking Emporia to a new level. Contact Emporia Main Street to find the committee right for you, and get involved!