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2020 – We still did some AWESOME things!

Jessica Buchholz by Jessica Buchholz, Events Coordinator | January 4, 2021
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At the beginning of 2020, we were excited about the year to come. It seemed like every major event fell perfectly on the calendar. Businesses were expanding. Developments were in full swing. Institutions were growing. It was lining up to be a banner year. Then the pandemic hit. Disasters don’t excuse a workload. If we are doing our jobs correctly it simply means that we have to work even harder to preserve what all of us have built in this region. Meetings and writing reports aren’t the type of “look back” elements we typically cover, because of course we have meetings and write reports, but it is the outcomes of activities that actually matter. Below is a look back at 2020 through a Main Street lens:
January-
• Removed the downtown Christmas lights
• Continued with public outreach for the Sanitary Sewer project
• Worked with the City of Emporia for business outreach concerning the 6th and Commercial Water Main project
• Provided a building rehab loan to the owners of 407 Commercial
• Worked with regional partners to secure Americorp assistance.
• Distributed funds from Freedom Fest
• Shared funds with the Kiwanis International folks that partnered on local community projects with Emporia Main Street
• Started implementation planning for the Dirty Kanza (now Unbound) the Glass Blown Open (now the Dynamic Discs Open), and Cinco de Mayo.
• Worked with area partners to submit I6 Funding initial requests
• Started the information gathering process and initial interviews with the Brookings Institute
• Worked with Timmerman Elementary to send soldier care packages
• Started promotional activities for the Census
• Participated in local grant workshops for alternative funding
• Held a Merchant to Merchant session dedicated towards second quarter event capitalization
• Started planning for The Taste
February-
• Assisted the Emporia Gazette with their first Empori-Yum Food Month event
• Coordinated marketing for Valentines promotions
• Handed out door-to-door sewer project updates
• Held a “Mix and Mingle” for new community members
• Provided business loans to Big Ben’s Auto, and Ruthy’s Fruty’s
• Pushed tickets for The Taste
• Assisted in planning and merchandising for St. Patrick’s Day activities
• Worked with Emporia State University on international student research projects
• Finished the Vision 2030 for Emporia Main Street
• Participated in the Kansas Main Street training series
• Helped promote a cool Emporia connection- the movie “Call of the Wild” featured a former shelter dog from Emporia
• The Rural Rise conference announced Emporia as a future host site
• Presented to the City of Emporia for a cooperative USDA grant
• Met with representatives from Wichita on starting a Veterans Banner program in their community

March-
•Trox Gallery and Gifts opens in the new incubator space adjacent to the Emporia Main Street office, marking the first incubated business in Emporia
• Presented to Emporia State University Entrepreneurship students
• Submitted USDA grant information for the Fabrication Lab
• Continued to distribute updated business and community impact information for the sanitary sewer project
• Nominated for the Independent We Stand “Best Main Street” project
• Participated in promotion for St. Patrick’s Day and Quarter Mania activities
• Placed the first interactive temporary mural on the north side of the Emporia Main Street building
• Began downtown cleanup activities
• Promoted usage of the conference room to several outside groups
• THE PANDEMIC HITS
• The Taste, Quarter Mania, and St. Patrick’s Day activities were postponed or cancelled
• Switched to remote work for everyone but a single staff member
• Started health based information outreach to businesses
• Worked with the City Manager to allow for curbside restaurant service
• Partnered with Newman Regional Health for mask collection and materials distribution for local volunteers to make masks (to date, local citizens have contributed over 12,000 reusable masks through this program provided to patients and family members of patients).
• Promoted HIRE loans through the Kansas Department of Commerce and Network Kansas- Emporia Main Street acted as the processing/collections agent for all HIRE loans in Lyon County.
• Worked with the Department of Commerce, Kansas Main Street, Network Kansas, and our local Board to defer gap financing loan payments for up to four months.
• In a scramble for mask materials (fabric, elastic, etc.) Emporia Main Street partnered with KVOE and the Emporia Community Foundation to create the Lyon County Disaster Relief Fund
• Promoted Jamie Darcy’s “Emporia Strong” merchandise to assist local citizens in need
• Converted all committee meetings to remote
• Created an online business assistance dashboard with expert resources through www.emporiamainstreet.com
• Created business surveys for immediate distribution, and sent the results to governmental agencies
• Worked with the Emporia Gazette on ShopEmporiaKansas.com to promote local gift certificates
• Promoted senior shopping hours with essential businesses
• Worked with a number of existing businesses to create online sales options
April-
• The Greater Emporia Area Disaster Relief Fund is formed. The Lyon County Disaster Relief Fund is absorbed into the new fund, which includes partners from the United Way of the Flint Hills, Emporia Main Street, KVOE, and the Emporia Community Foundation. The fund starts to take funding requests from both businesses and non-profits
• Emporia Main Street moves forward past the “first cut” in the Independent We Stand Best Main Street contest
• The pandemic makes the sewer project sporadic, and Emporia Main Street continues to distribute information as it becomes available
• Emporia Main Street promotes new Covid related business information
• Worked with local financial institutions to promote PPP and EIDL financial assistance for businesses
• Worked with federal agencies on direct stimulus
• Announced a hybrid Dirty Kanza (now Unbound) and Great American Market in September
• Worked with the Emporia State University Technology Center on PPE production
• Veterans Banner Applications go live
• Conducted A LOT of individual business consultations
• Continued the Newman Regional Health mask project
• Began the “THANK U” sign project to bolster funds for the Greater Emporia Area Disaster Relief Fund
• Participated in a National Main Street Center small focus group with American Express to define “shop small” kits to assist small businesses
• Created a “Draw your Main Street” program for kids at home due to the pandemic
• Promoted Lyon County Public Health guidance for small businesses
• Met (remotely) regarding resources to promote student population growth
• Emporia Main Street makes the “Top 25 Main Streets” in the nation
• Sewer project delayed due to Covid
May-
• The Rehabilitation on the 710 Commercial Street building begins
• Greater Emporia Area Disaster Relief Fund requests increase
• Thank U sign orders spike
• Emporia Main Street obtains and distributes specialty pandemic signs for businesses
• Staff ceases remote work
• The White Ribbon Campaign starts with Newman Regional Health and Emporia Main Street, with assistance from Plum Bazaar. This campaign recognizes health care workers and raises funds for disaster relief.
• After a Covid delay, the Adopt a Garden project begins
• Work resumes on the sanitary sewer system
• First consumer preferences surveys go out to the public to help businesses meet customer expectations
• Some businesses start reopening after the initial Covid shut down
• Worked with the City of Emporia on collecting information for a Community Development Block Grant-CV program to provide grants to small businesses
• Emporia Main Street was announced as one of the Top Ten Main Streets in the nation by Independent We Stand
• Participated in a National Main Street data collection effort
• Authorized for a Kansas Arts Commission grant for the production and placement of more temporary murals
June-
• Kayla Mock and Joel Smith restart their First Friday activities
• GEADRF Grants Continue
• Held the first round of Adopt a Garden voting
• Information updates for the sanitary sewer project continues
• Emporia Main Street hosts site visits for potential development groups
• Push business participation for the Kansas Department of Commerce CARES program grants
• Several local businesses start selling supplementary PPE to meet market demand
• Protests in line with national movements take place downtown
• The Preston Plaza and Lofts Project by Cory Haag is completed. Apartments fill before the official opening and all the commercial spots fill soon after
• Emporia Main Street membership drive begins
• More businesses reopen following the mandated shut down
• Merchant to Merchant virtual sessions are held to cover new business assistance programs
• Network Kansas holds their first virtual regional meeting
• Promoted “Bowling for Business” to raise funds for the GEADRF
• New Emporia Main Street merchandise is released
• Version 2 of the consumer preferences survey is released
• Downtown cleanups continue
• Started the conversion of loan payments and select membership payments to ACH to emphasize touchless options
• Emporia Main Street receives accreditation from the National Main Street Center
• The downtown sound system is utilized to promote Covid based messaging
July-
• Emporia Main Street promotes “Grand Reopening” strategies and provides new store front informational signage
• New veterans banners are selected through the lottery drawing
• Our first virtual annual meeting for Emporia Main Street is held
• The sanitary sewer project nears completion
• The Dirty Kanza (now Unbound) is cancelled
• Met with the Kansas Secretary of Commerce concerning business assistance
• Participated in a Kansas Main Street/Kansas Sampler presentation
• Started collections on payments for the HIRE program
• Participated in a “MASK UP!” video through the Lyon County Health Department
• Named “Best Nonprofit” by the readers of the Emporia Gazette.
• The Taste is cancelled
• Collected additional information for The Brookings Institute study
• Continued grant allocations and fundraising for the Greater Emporia Area Disaster Relief Fund
• Downtown elements for the sanitary sewer project conclude
• Announce yearly Emporia Main Street awards, elect new officers, and elect new board members
• The HartBeat Grant through the National Main Street center is announced
August-
• A hybrid Moonlight Madness and Welcome Back “walk” Party take place
• The Trolley House opens!
• CDBG-CV forms for small businesses in Emporia are distributed
• Staff participates in virtual Kansas Main Street trainings
• The GEADRF grants continue
• The Great American Market is cancelled by Lyon County Health Department order
• Downtown Cleanups continue
• Worked with the State Office of Historic Preservation on upgrades to a downtown building
• Worked with the Kansas Department of Commerce to distribute Back to Business Grants information and answer business questions
• Worked with a local donor, community National Bank & Trust, and a regional artist on the procurement and placement of a new downtown sculpture
• Began Freedom Fest planning
• Version 3 of the Consumer preferences survey is released
• Business Spotlights designed to highlight specific products and services at member businesses start up
• Start Your Own Business Class registrations begin
• Loans provided to Cradle to Career to continue the rehabilitation process on their building
• CBS Sports features Dynamic Discs disc golf tournaments
September-
• Partnered with KVOE to produce and distribute social distancing floor signs for businesses
• Honored by SOS for procuring the most items for local care packages (282)
• Freedom Fest planning continues
• NexTech Pay It Forward Cash Mobs begin. This project partnership between NexTech Wireless and Emporia Main Street provided pop-up gift certificate giveaways to promote local shopping
• Met with the Lyon County Commission concerning economic development support for an expanding business
• Emporia State University and Flint Hills Technical College student groups participate in downtown cleanups
• Attended the Kauffman E-Ship conference virtually
• Provided “rural by choice” feedback
• The Lyon County Commission announce their CARES grant program
• Held a Merchant to Merchant session to discuss business assistance programs
• Participated in a Rural Rise remote planning session
October-
• Held the first “Mulligans for Main Street” golf tournament
• The 2nd interactive temporary mural is placed downtown
• The Start Your Own Business Class begins
• Emporia Main Street hosts a virtual board retreat
• Participate in the final day of the Kauffman EShip summit
• A Wall Street Journal Article focusing on downtown Emporia is published on the front page of the Wall Street Journal. This article was made possible through a direct conduit at the National Main Street Center that put a senior reporter in contact with Emporia Main Street.
• City Contract discussions with Emporia Main Street begin
• Staff attends (virtually) Kansas Main Street preservation training
• City staff and Emporia State University staff display the veterans banners
• Emporia Main Street partners with Hispanics of Today and Tomorrow to announce the ofrenda window decorating contest
• A socially distanced trick or treat utilizing candy chutes is held downtown
• Conducted business tours with Senator Moran
• Downtown Cleanups continue
• Hosted another community looking at becoming a part of the Main Street program
• Provided a business loan that aided in the business transition for Roberts-Blue-Barnett Funeral Home
• Started the Main Street Shout Outs program to recognize exceptional volunteer activities
November-
• The Pen Pal Program for senior living facilities is launched
• Freedom Fest is held in both in-person and virtual formats
• Held a Holiday Open House
• Hosted the Small Business Saturday Elf Scavenger Hunt
• Continued with downtown cleanup activities
• Held our first virtual public improvement auction
• Participated as a virtual judge for the Emporia High School “Vacant Lot” competition
• Start Your Own Business Classes conclude
• Soldier Care Package items are collected
• Volunteers and staff hang Christmas lights on downtown lamp posts
• The new collectible Christmas ornament is launched featuring Abigail Morse Hall
• Grand opening for Shelbys’ Sassy Designs and Tallgrass Trends take place
• A name change for the Dirty Kanza to Unbound is announced
• A name change for the Glass Blown Open to the Dynamic Discs Open is announced
• The Adopt a Healthcare Hero program begins. This program provides citizens with the opportunity to donate gift certificates or other items to staff members of Newman Regional Health as a “thank you” for all they are doing through the pandemic
• Lyon County CARES recipients are announced
• Participated as a virtual judge for the Emporia High School Shark Tank competition
• New Emporia Mugs are introduced as a merchandise option
• A third interactive mural is added down town
December-
• Soldier Care Packages are sent
• Emporia Main Street hosted Moonlight Madness
• A gift certificate program highlighting the staff of USD 253 is announced
• New donations to the Greater Emporia Disaster Relief Fund allow for a new round of business support grants
• Healthcare Heroes gift baskets and gift certificates are distributed
• The Pen Pal program continues with an overwhelming response
• Brookings Institute studies highlighting Laramie WY, Wheeling WV, and Emporia KS are released
• Potential developers were hosted on a series of building tours
• Emporia is highlighted in USA TODAY through Main Street conduit
• Kansas Main Street provided Design Assistance for a downtown building
• The Kauffman Center highlights Emporia Main Street as part of a rural innovation article
• Staff participated in Historic Grant training
• Emporia Main Street promoted “Giving Tuesday”
• Provided loans to Shelbys’ Sassy Designs and L & L Pets for business expansion activities
• Partnered with the David Traylor Zoo and KVOE to host the first “Cruisin with Santa” event.
• Surpassed $70,000 in gift certificate sales for the year
• Launched the fifth version of the consumer preferences survey
• Partnered with Newman Regional Health and Radius Brewing Company on gift certificates for Healthcare Heroes.
Obviously, we didn’t include everything we did within the 2020 list. 2021 won’t start off easy. We still have a pandemic and a lot of work ahead of us to stabilize local businesses, grow our potential new businesses, generate additional development, draw people back to our businesses ( once it is safe to do so ) and create destination opportunities through events and activities. We will have some new tools come online to support members; new resources will provide some semblance of sustainability; and IF the public takes advantage of emerging treatments and preventative measures, we can get closer to normal in 2021!
Thanks for working with us to keep our local region moving forward. We know it has been tough, and we appreciate your support, advocacy, and sacrifices for the good of the community.

About the Author

Jessica Buchholz, Events Coordinator

Jessica Buchholz is the Community Development Coordinator for Emporia Main Street in Emporia, Kansas. She specializes in event planning, volunteer recruitment, alternative marketing, media/public relations and fundraising. During Jessica's tenure at Emporia Main Street, she has helped grow events to an international level and she has created a series of new activities to meet organizational goals.

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