downtown laurens

Main Street America recently announced the recipients of The Grills Fund for Main Street Revitalization, a grant program that will provide Accredited Main Street America Programs $10,000 each to help fund innovative revitalization efforts to address the current and/or legacy impacts of COVID-19. 

“These winning ideas represent the ingenuity, resiliency, and entrepreneurial thinking that have made Main Street a powerful tool for revitalization and will be vital to economic recovery moving forward,” said Main Street America’s President and CEO Patrice Frey. “These programs have not only actively positioned their communities and programs for success, but they have also offered model approaches that can be adopted by other Main Streets responding to the impact of COVID-19 across the country.”

This new grant fund is made possible through the generosity of Joe and Marge Grills of Rapidan, Virginia. The Grills have been long-time leaders in supporting Main Street at both the national and local level. Joe has served as a founding member of the National Main Street Center Board since 2013 and they are dedicated supporters of Main Street America programs in Orange and Culpeper, Virginia.

From community engagement and gap services projects to small business training and technology programs, these winning ideas represent a wide range of creative approaches to the impact of COVID-19 on Main Street.

Three winners were recognized in the Entrepreneur and Small Business Support and Training Projects category: 

Bricks & Clicks: Downtown Recovery: Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance (Harrisonburg, VA)

Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance is hoping to boost local online shopping and build consumer confidence in returning downtown (once it’s safe to do so) by helping businesses implement digital and physical store improvements. Their three-part small business assistance program, Bricks & Clicks, will start with a training for all downtown businesses. Small business owners will then apply to get matched with local technical assistance experts, who will help them identify solutions to challenges and prepare grant project proposals. Grant-eligible projects can either address public health improvements at physical locations (the Bricks) or make digital enhancements (the Clicks) to boost online brand identity and e-commerce. 

Coal Avenue Commons Pop-Up Entrepreneur Resource Center: Gallup MainStreet Arts & Cultural District (Gallup, NM)

Coal Avenue Commons won’t be a typical entrepreneur resource center. While it will provide established and aspiring entrepreneurs with space, resource connections, skills building training, and entrepreneur-focused boot camps, it will also spark the rehabilitation or reuse of properties in the district. By popping up in underutilized or vacant properties and providing space for meetings, working, and pop-up businesses, Coal Avenue Commons will advertise and demonstrate potential uses for these locations in the district. Gallup MainStreet Arts & Cultural District will initially launch the program in a digital format to provide resources to business owners and will grow into its desired physical shape once it is deemed safe to do so. 

Technology Audit and Small Business Training: Main Street Laurens (Laurens, SC)

In the wake up COVID-19, Main Street Laurens saw a need to help their small businesses develop a stronger online presence in recovery and well into the future. That’s why they decided to launch a technology audit and small business training program. The audit will provide businesses with a comprehensive assessment of current technology, its effectiveness, and practical strategies to grow an online presence. Once the audit process is complete, Main Street Laurens will produce a marketing checklist and host a workshop to provide an overview of marketing concepts for district businesses. After the workshop, small businesses can apply to receive one-on-one assistance and participate in sessions about marketing concepts.