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Thread: Best way to fund Main Street program?

  1. #1

    Best way to fund Main Street program?

    I work as a planner in an area periphery to a big city (sort of like how Brooklyn nestles NYC, except a lot smaller).

    We've been trying out the Main Streets program in two of our commercial districts and they've had varying, but improving success at revitalization. However, as households, firms, and, yes, municipal governments need to tighten the belt in these gloomy times, we're looking at alternative means for funding this entity.

    Here are the options we've looked at and why they seem inadequate:

    1) The City - we understand the benefits to having the programs, but while most Main Streets programs nearby receive total funding, we're no NYC, and our budget is shrinking.

    2) The State - they expect to be cutting back budgets as well

    3) Area businesses - we don't have a large concentration of large corporate entities and smaller shops see supporting it as another tax increase.

    4) Self funded - fund raising, grant writing, etc do bring in some money (25%?), but no where near the type of transition we're trying to do.


    Does anyone have creative practices for making a Main Streets organization more self sufficient?

    Thanks.

  2. #2
    Lafayette (or West Lafayette), Indiana turns over their parking meter receipts from the downtown, as well as parking tickets in the d/t, to their MSP.

    Downtown is the one neighborhood that belongs to everybody, so hit up businesses outside the cbd for memberships. It's i their interest because it's a quality of life issue.

    We use special events for fund raisers, sometimes partnering with other community groups and splitting the profits.
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  3. #3
    Cyburbian Brocktoon's avatar
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    We fund our Main Street through tax dollars and they raise some funds through fundraising, grants etc. When I looked into it almost every MSP received some level of tax funding, whether its a TIF district or straight general fund dollars. In Washington DC most of the commercial districts set up BID's and used the Main Street approach. I have heard some use a portion of the bed tax to fund it but I cannot think of examples. Can you have a staff person from the city run the program?
    "If you don't like change, you're going to like irrelevance even less" General Eric Shinseki

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    Super Moderator kjel's avatar
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    I interned at a Main Street program before going to grad school. The funding came from a variety of sources:
    1. Special Tax District in Main Street district.
    2. Membership fee from business owner's in the district. This is a modest amount and mostly goes into the pool that they can use for facade improvements and the like.
    3. A 1% hospitality sales tax charged by restaurants and hotels in the city limits.
    4. State & Federal grants
    5. Corporate fundraising/sponsorships especially at special events

    The town was approximately 20,000 in population in a semi-rural area and the Main Street program was busy all year long with many different events appealing to all and operated in the black.
    "He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?" Jeremiah 22:16

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    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    The best way is one in which the property owners and businesses are providing a majority of the funding. Doing so is an indication of buy-in. If it is somebody else's money coming in it tends to be used, but not to engender much commitment to the goals. Outside money is also less reliable and will go away sooner or later, leaving the program to die.
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  6. #6
    Good input so far, thanks.

    hit up businesses...It's i their interest
    This has been a major stumbling block. There are few large corporate entities, and none of them have more than token interest in support. Smaller owners are either barely holding on, or don't think the value is worth the 'tax'.

    I agree businesses are a good place to start, but how to engage them?

    State & Federal grants
    I've heard these are hard to come by for economic development, do you have any links?

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    Super Moderator kjel's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Fountainfeist View post
    I agree businesses are a good place to start, but how to engage them?
    You have to do the leg work and go to them. Visit their shops, ask questions about how their business is doing, what could the Main Street office do to help them generate more business, how do they see themselves as part of the Main Street district, what ideas might they have? You have to create a true partnership that has Main Street business owners invested in their own success. We used to give them free advertising on the website, promotional materials that went out, a nod on the local community access tv channel, etc. Part of the board of the Main Street program was made up of the business owners themselves as well. Getting them to donate products and services for special events also helps drive traffic to them.

    I've heard these are hard to come by for economic development, do you have any links?
    They can be, the trick is looking for grants that complement economic development and might free up funds earmarked for something else so they can be used for economic development. In my 9 months there we had grants from the state DOT for pedestrian safety enhancement which paid for upgrading crosswalks and the signals, a tourism grant to help promote a major festival, a CDBG grant for small business development for microenterprise development and small park creation. Essentially you just need to think creatively.
    "He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?" Jeremiah 22:16

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    Cyburbian Brocktoon's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Fountainfeist View post
    Good input so far, thanks.



    This has been a major stumbling block. There are few large corporate entities, and none of them have more than token interest in support. Smaller owners are either barely holding on, or don't think the value is worth the 'tax'.

    I agree businesses are a good place to start, but how to engage them?
    Talk with them and demonstrate value that the Main Street approach provides. Successful business people are value driven. You need to show they are making an investment not giving to charity. If you can't demonstrate the benefit of the program in your elevator speech then you need either a better speech or reevaluate the purpose of the program for your area. If you establish a BID or some other separate tax see if the city will kick what they would be assessed if they were a private entity.


    I've heard these are hard to come by for economic development, do you have any links?
    For state grants check with your states Dept of Commerce or like entity. (I am not sure what state you are in or I would have done a quick search for you.)

    As for feds start with HUD. How is your community using CDBG? Is the city you are talking about considered rural by the USDA? EDA does provide grants for planning and development but they focus more on industrial development. Also many large companies, rail roads and retailers, provide grants for similar type activities. The Wal Mart Foundation has been supportive of many CBD that their stores hurt. Does the large city you are near have a foundation? Often redevelopment fits into their mission.
    "If you don't like change, you're going to like irrelevance even less" General Eric Shinseki

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