CBIA BizCast: Building a Vibrant Main Street
Main streets drive the economies of towns and cities across the country.
But as Connecticut Main Street Center executive director Michelle McCabe says, “having a vibrant Main Street is no easy feat.”
The Connecticut Main Street Center has been active in the state since 1995. The organization, made up of members, works to revitalize downtowns through various means.
“I think it’s incumbent upon us to make sure that we leverage all that we have, because we really do have it all here,” McCabe said on CBIA’s BizCast.
“If some downtowns are just needing that extra push, that is really all they need because the bone structure is already there.”
As a Connecticut native, McCabe is committed to helping downtowns recognize their potential.
She joined the organization after nearly two decades working for various nonprofits, including museums, agricultural, and small business organizations.
“All of these issues really intersect on Main Street,” she said. “You have arts and culture, transit, housing, workforce, and great businesses.”
McCabe said every community has something special to offer. Part of making a Main Street successful is highlighting those offerings.
From Torrington’s Warner Theater to Bridgeport’s historic walking tours and Manchester’s arts focus, communities have brought life to their main streets with these attractions.
Middletown, she said, is another example of a place where leaders are working hard to revitalize by redeveloping the riverfront.
Mixed with Middletown’s wide selection of eateries and shops, there is a recipe for success brewing.
“You can probably eat around the world and back again at all the variety of restaurants that are there,” McCabe said.
McCabe said main streets are a curated experience that often requires a nice mix of things to thrive.
CMSC helps cities and towns invest in their people, and ensure there is sustainable foot traffic to keep the small businesses that call Main Street home alive.
“Main Street itself is an ecosystem. It’s a place where so any different people, interests, and activities not only come together, but have to work together,” McCabe said.
“It’s not just your business in your store. You are part of the fabric of a lot of businesses and entities. If they are all working together, that is what makes success.”
CMSC offers a number of resources to support communities and small businesses, including technical support, best practices, and funding opportunities.
Recently, McCabe said they partnered with state officials to encourage members to help businesses take advantage of the Small Business Boost Fund.
The organization also hosts webinars for downtown leaders as well as small businesses.
This year the McCabe said they are focusing on helping put entrepreneurs into vacant properties to revitalize Main Street corridors.
She said a lot of entrepreneurs who emerged during the pandemic are ready to move into brick-and-mortar spaces and have the potential to bring in new foot traffic.
Contributions to the success will come from community buy-in and support.
“As Connecticut Main Street Center, we know how important it is to work together, to convene all stakeholders, because that is what Main Street is all about,” she said.
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