Main Street America in partnership with the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) hosted a webinar on February 10 titled “Small Business’s Big Moment” that highlighted ideas for communities on how to use the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds for long-term economic development. Kennedy Smith from the ISLR and Kelly Humrichouser from Main Street America moderated the conversation, whose focus was on small business.
Some of the ideas presented include:
Strategic investments in small business training, coaching and finance, i.e. financial relief grants, loans, opening business incubators, and other resources;
Using the funds to develop and open full-service grocers;
Building a robust infrastructure to support small scale manufacturing;
Simplifying and streamlining the procurement process to make it easier for small businesses to bid;
Investing in “shop local” marketing campaigns;
Expanding broadband access;
Making improvements in commercial districts to enhance accessibility.
Last December I attended a webinar with Main Street America where Lindsey Wallace spoke about her organization’s approach to community transformation based on four pillars:
2. Economic Vitality
As we juggle multiple crises from health care to economic prosperity, climate change, and inequality, I believe this is a model that can lead to a sustainable future for communities that can rally together behind some common purpose.
The first pillar Organization calls for strong leadership and broad community engagement to identify priorities and forge partnerships across sectors.
Economic Vitality invites a diverse economic base, and smart investments that contribute to a vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Design plays a critical role in creating an inviting and inclusive atmosphere that incorporates historic preservation, energy efficiency, and accessibility.
And Promotion is all about marketing the community’s defining assets and unique attributes while supporting “buy local”.
Business trends that will continue to shape our communities are the expansion of broadband, remote work, e-commerce, and lifestyle changes that are here to stay like for instance slowing down, investing in self-care, and developing contingency plans.