Here is what we heard and our expansion on nine thoughtful replies.
Present yourself as an economic development professional.
Main Street is more than special events and festivals. Too often, local leaders think of the Main Street Manager as a party planner. Use your economic impact statistics to help you to explain that your job is economic development.
Establish good relationships with your city leaders.
Main Street (and economic development) should be apolitical and non-partisan. A manager’s role is one of servant leader. Working outside of the spotlight, a manager will succeed most often when he or she credits local leadership partners for Main Street successes.
Work with your local and regional media to get out the good news.
Know your local and regional news media representative by name. Make their jobs easier and promote the story by providing media reps with photos, news releases, and copies of reports. Offer news media owners opportunities to sponsor your events.
Visit every business and get acquainted with their owners; establish trust and involve them in planning.
Be on a first-name basis with your business owners. Understand their nature and approach as independent business owners. Not all independent owners are quick to “join in” on a team. But, once you learn their issues, concerns, and priorities, through surveying or strategic planning, and work to incorporate those issues into the Main Street program of work, you will find most business owners appreciate of your role and efforts. This goes for your property owners, as well.
Hit the streets.
Be visible to your business and property owners. Show them that you see what they see, that you are monitoring and determined to improve conditions. Make sure they get copies of your reports and news bulletins.
Listen to all your owners, not just the most vocal.
Owners vary. Some are extroverts, some introverts. To get input from the quiet ones, try a one-on-one survey.
Educate the community about your office and what it does.
Use your monthly and annual report data and images to tell your community customers, partners, and leaders about your Main Street. Share details about projects and activities, and their impacts.
Show properties for sale or lease; use city and county records for creating rich and up-to-date databases.
A detailed inventory of properties is one of your most critical tools as an economic development professional. Help property owners, prospective buyers, and prospective business owners by being able to quickly provide thorough, useful property details.
Learn and use social media for communicating and promoting downtown.
In recent years, use of social media has lowered printing and marketing costs for Main Street managers, while also providing fast, colorful, and customized message delivery options.
Thanks to our Main Street colleagues for sharing their insights.
Share your thoughts about the above suggestions for new downtown managers; contact us with your advice and pearls of wisdom.