2021 Assistance Goals: Pushing Forward Through the Pandemic.
At the beginning of January, we published a brief look back at 2020 as a way to capture work done and close the book on a difficult year. Emporia Main Street is generally known more for looking forward than looking back, and it’s important to highlight our expectations for the year:
- We need to continue to find new business assistance assets as pandemic impacts progress.- The negative business impacts of COVID will not cease until businesses can operate at pre-pandemic levels AND the general public feels safe in engaging with local businesses at pre-COVID levels. Until those thing occur, we will need to identify and distribute business assistance platforms to help local entrepreneurs. The Greater Emporia Area Disaster Relief fund, CDBG, CARES, PPP, EIDL, and more have been utilized by local institutions, but we will have to encourage application to other national grants and related programs to ensure our locals have the resources they need to remain viable through the remainder of the pandemic.
- Building redevelopment options to promote density and encourage new businesses should be a major focus.- Information continues to stream in about the value of reusing areas with existing infrastructure to solve for housing and commercial problems. When we build new streets, sewer systems, water lines, etc., those infrastructure pieces generate long term liabilities for local governments. We need to consider prudent tax positive options when developing to meet local demands while preserving/growing the local tax base.
- New business tools will come online to generate new product opportunities and business diversification.- Over the next several weeks, you will hear about new tools to help local businesses create new products, stream distribution channels, and enhance the available customer base. Businesses can’t just stay static and hope that things improve. We want to work with local businesses to expand and diversify product offerings to generate more sales. We also want to help generate products that are unique to this area so they don’t face direct online competition.
- Events may look different, but we will work under the assumption that at least some of them will happen.- Lessons were learned over the past year about social distancing, outdoor activities, and safety. Events over the next few months may look different, but we are hopeful that (if local infections continue to drop and the vaccinated populace continues to increase) we can host some activities that are vital to community growth.
- New pride projects will enhance knowledge of the community for residents, and improve conduits for investors.- Over the next few weeks you will see the first of some new project partnerships that will provide a fun way to interact with the unique aspects of our region. Those projects, when coupled with an expansion of our temporary mural program, can enhance pride and/or traffic. Revamps to investment conduits will enable locals to target investment more effectively.
- Our 30th Anniversary will announce some next generation actions.- Emporia Main Street will turn thirty this year! While we typically don’t get drawn into a lot of pomp and circumstance, every five years we have a larger annual meeting that looks back and forward. This year could be fun!
- We will continue to promote healthy strategies set forth by the Lyon County Public Health Officer as a pathway to get businesses open at full capacity when it is safe to do so.- We have a new Public Health Officer, and if mitigation methods for COVID prove successful we hope to engage them in shifting businesses and events towards a more normal capacity (with appropriate safety precautions). In the interim, we want to work with health officials to encourage safety while taking advantage of emerging technology to blunt the spread of the virus.
- We will build on successes of test programs from 2020 to generate more of “what’s working”.- Last year didn’t have a lot of things we would call “successful”, but there were a few test cases that enhanced local businesses and community standing. We will continue to test new things, keep what works, invest in previous successes, and jettison the initiatives that didn’t pan out.
- We will work with area partners to enhance entrepreneurial development initiatives to accelerate local business activity.- We cannot simply maintain existing businesses. We have to find ways to assist the next generation of entrepreneurs. There are still business opportunities in the local area, but our locals need different types of assistance to start with a solid foundation. Working with area (and statewide) partners, we can provide assets to help our entrepreneurs startup and grow. You should see more information on these initiatives over the next couple of months.
- When public health officials indicate it is safe, we will execute a series of different initiatives designed to pull people back into the community.- Our area generated a positive pull factor over the past few years by inviting outsiders into our community for athletic events, day trips, and general shopping/dining/entertainment. We obviously cannot engage in some of the direct encouragement that was common in 2019, but as the pandemic improves, we have plans in place to target groups to increase customers for local businesses.
- We will continue to work with national outlets to bring investment and positive recognition to the area.- Last year, Emporia showed up in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, the Brookings Institute, and the Kauffman Foundation. These articles highlighted local innovations and elevated our community in the public consciousness. The recognition has opened up some funding avenues for individual businesses and our community. We will continue to push for additional resources for our region through several strategies, including highlighting our story.
There are several opportunities in 2021 that we hope to take advantage of for the good of the region, our members, and local entrepreneurs. First, we need to see the COVID numbers continue to trend down and vaccination levels continue to trend up (significantly). We aren’t sitting on our hands waiting for things to happen. Your Emporia Main Street has been busy creating new community tools and planning options to initiate growth. Let’s work to create a healthy community first, and then follow up by working hard to build back better in 2021.
Are there other goals that we should include? Email us at [email protected] to provide your feedback!