Main Street Recap from the Iowa Downtown Conference 2017

August 1-3, 2017 both our Executive Director Jennifer Pruden, and our Program Assistant Barb Thompson attended the annual Iowa Downtown Conference held this year in Sioux City Iowa. This was a chance to network and learn techniques with 53 other Main Street communities across the state of Iowa.

In the Opening Session, economist Ed McMahon shared the Four Key Drivers of Economic Vitals: Talent, Innovation, Connectivity, and Distinctiveness. Through these four basic principals, communities thrive. Ed also shared an interesting fact about tourism: it is one of the 3 largest industries in every state in America. The keys to sustainable tourism in each community goes beyond marketing, the community needs to protect and enhance the space in an authentic way. This preserves the communities’ character, and promotes a constant stream of visitors. Ed also shared his tips from thriving communities that he has seen and worked with across the country. Successful communities have: a shared vision, local regional assets, enhancement of assets, they have standards for new development, the neighbors cooperate, and the community protects the character of the area. 

In another session, Max Musicant explained the Process of Placemaking. This is defined as creating a space where the community feels comfortable hanging out and enjoying what your space has to offer. There are six things to consider when creating your public space:
1. Semi-enclosed feels good to visitors allowing both public and quiet experiences of the space.
2. Provide things for guests to do and enjoy. Games, flowers, or something else to activate the area.
3. Give them a space where they can take in some daylight and sunshine.
4. Add movable seating, giving your customers some flexibility on how they can experience the area.
5. Have an area that protects your guest’s back. People tend to feel comfortable with their back to something while relaxing.
6. Active edges make active interiors. Could you add an interesting border to your space to create the boundary and an eye pleasing border?

Great spaces are adaptable, useful, meaningful, can lend itself to events and activities, is designed in an eye-catching way, and also promotes user engagement and communication.