How Main Street Programs Fuel Economic Development

Have you seen the news? Recently THREE main street programs in Greater Reading were recognized as Nationally Accredited programs. We’re excited about the news and want to tell you why this is important for economic development.

Talent Attraction & Retention

Probably the most obvious reason main street programs are important relates to talent attraction and retention. According to the PEW Research Center, millennials (anyone born between the early 1980s and early 2000s) will be the largest living generation.

So what does this have to do with main street programs? Well, millennials are prioritizing lifestyle and desire walk-able urban environments. In a survey done by Pricewaterhouse Coopers, Millennials listed ”location” as the fifth most important factor when considering a job — behind personal opportunities for growth, company reputation, the job role, and pay.

As the largest living generation, millennials will also be the largest group in the workforce and economic developers are competing for this talent. In order to attract and retain talent for your business your community has to be desirable to the workforce.

Main Street programs are important to more than just millennials. Locating your business downtown and having a desirable main street program makes it easier for your business to attract employees in cutting edge industries like engineering, software development, and biotechnology.

Increase Community Involvement

Having a vibrant downtown will increase community involvement resulting in community attachment (an emotional connection to a place that transcends satisfaction, loyalty, and passion).

How does this impact economic development? According to findings reported in the Soul of the Community study conducted by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundations community attachment corresponds with a higher GDP growth.

Having a successful Main Street program and filling your downtown with local businesses encourages residents to “buy local.” This helps to build relationships within the community that can lead to the creation of new jobs — ultimately fueling economic development.

Spur Business Development

Main Street programs can and will spur business development. This coincides with community attachment. Create a place where people enjoy being, and businesses will follow.

Why would a business want to move downtown? A benefit to having a business in your community’s downtown is the close proximity to your customers and potential business partners.

Main Street programs also spur business development by attracting more people downtown, and giving investors and developers more reasons to rehabilitate empty buildings — creating more opportunities for business attraction and growth. Business development in downtowns results in greater financial stability for a community.

Main Street programs are an economic asset to every community, as they lead to talent attraction and retention, community involvement, and business development. Check out some of Greater Reading’s Main Street programs: Building a Better Boyertown; Keepin’ it Kutztown; West Reading Community and Revitalization Foundation.

Sources: Smart Growth America, Sonia Huntzinger & Kim Lentz, PA Downtown Center, Ady Advantage.