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2017 Issue 12

D e ve l o p , I n n ov a t e , P r o s p e r

Main Street Revitalization Focus Issue

Placemaking Projects Across Oklahoma’s Main Streets p. 3

THE STATE OF MAIN STREETS Making an Impact on Oklahoma’s Economy

Oklahoma’s Main Street program has been pumping new life back into the heart of communities across the state for more than 30 years. Combining historic preservation and downtown revitalization efforts with powerful economic stimulation, Main Street restores the core assets of our communities and enhances the quality of life for citizens.

$1.24 Billion in Private Investment

(As of September 2017 $35.5 million has been invested) TX

$379,000+ Million in Public Investment (As of September 2017, $10.3 million has been invested)

18,218 New Jobs 5,395 Business Openings, Relocations and Expansions 1.3 Million Volunteer Hours (Since 2002)

4,835 Facade Rehabilitations 8,938 Other Building Projects & New Construction Source: Main Street Cumulative Reinvestment Report through September 2017


Total investment in Main Street programs including private sector and public improvement projects

Contact the Main Street Program for more information at 800-879-6552 or email

Placemaking Projects Across Oklahoma’s Main Streets Oklahoma selected for 2017 round of Cultivating Place in Main Street

Quality of life has become an increasingly important factor in business expansion and relocation projects. Once a project site search has been narrowed to a few options based on workforce, cost of doing business and other factors, employers and community members often state that community character can be the tipping point that helps company leadership make the final decision. In small towns and large cities across the country, a key element in building robust and resilient local economies is creating a unique, vibrant community. Placemaking is an excellent strategy for Main Street communities looking to improve public spaces and increase activity in their districts. In 2016, the National Main Street Center (NMSC) and Project for Public Spaces (PPS) launched a program to help revitalize towns and communities through Placemaking—a citizenled process that helps activate downtowns and community gathering places. As part of the joint program, the NMSC and PPS brought a series of two-day trainings to five states for Main Street communities throughout the country, with the generous support of Anne T. and Robert M. Bass. This year, Oklahoma was one of five states selected for the 2017 round of Cultivating Place in Main Street Communities trainings. “We were thrilled when Oklahoma was selected as one of the states to receive Placemaking training from PPS and the NMSC,” said Buffy Hughes, Oklahoma Main Street Center State Director. “The Placemaking model encourages the community to get more involved, and adds a new and vital layer to the Main Street Approach. We look forward to seeing the completion of these projects and what they will add to their local areas.” The Oklahoma training was held in Claremore in August, for which Oklahoma Main Street worked in conjunction with with the Institute of Quality Communities from the University of Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Arts Council, the State Historic Preservation Office and PPS. Internationally-known Placemaking facilitators, Anna Siprikova and Elena Madison, conducted the two-day, intensive training for Oklahoma Main Street Program Directors. Out of this collaboration came the opportunity for Oklahoma projects to be funded with partial matching grants from IOBY, a crowd-resourcing platform that connects leaders with funding and support to make neighborhoods safer, greener, more livable and more fun. Grant recipients Claremore Main Street and Stockyards City Main Street share their progress with Placemaking.

Claremore Main Street: Music on Main Claremore’s placemaking project Music on Main has a goal of raising $25,000 for 12 audio speakers throughout their threeblock downtown to play lively music as visitors shop and enjoy the area. “We believe this project will improve the sense of place in downtown Claremore, encouraging guests to stroll, sit and spend time in our district through the joys of music” said Jessica Jackson, Executive Director, Claremore Main Street.“We hope to be able to fund the bulk of the fundraising goal through crowd-funding and matching corporate sponsorships – we already have $5,000 committed.” The Claremore Main Street Team includes board members and volunteers, city councilors, downtown business owners, young professionals’ organization and Rogers County representatives. Stockyards City Main Street: Community Garden Stockyards City Main Street is implementing a community garden to serve residents of the area and provide a beautiful and relaxing place for tourists visiting the historic area. Fundraising efforts from Stockyards City Main Street will go to offset costs associated with building and planting the garden this spring. “Our district is home to two separate shelters, a fire station, library and an F.O.P lodge. Additionally, an elementary school is within one half mile of the district’s east end. Oklahoma State University-Oklahoma City campus, which is within 2.5 miles of the district, offers a horticulture class and we feel they would be an excellent partner,” said Kelli Payne, Executive Director, Stockyards City Main Street. “A number of merchants have expressed sincere interest in the garden as a way to enhance our vacant lots and make our area more attractive while also offering a fresh food alternative and creating ownership in something beautiful and useful.” “Having the public-private partnership is truly the best way for us to bring this to fruition,” said Payne. “The Stockyards City Main Street Community Garden will be a hub of activity. We believe it will provide a sense of community pride, ownership, and dignity to the area.” Stockyards City Main Streets envision using the garden for ‘park parties’, cook-outs and educational seminars as well. “Additionally, it complements our agricultural heritage and shows our commitment to our community as a whole,” said Payne. “Any excess produce will be offered for sale at the future Farmer’s Market that is sure to open after the garden’s success.”


Collaborative Efforts Renew Community Main Street Altus 2017 Community of the Year Winner Main Street Altus has been an Oklahoma Main Street community since 1992. The people involved have always given more than 100% to the organization and to our community

Amy Jo Cobb Main Street Altus Director

Located in far Southwest Oklahoma, this proud farming community is also home to an Air Force Base and a 100 year old courthouse square that is the home of Main Street Altus. This charming downtown boasts an occupancy rate close to 100% which is made possible, in part, by offering new and existing businesses education about Main Street’s nationally successful approach to downtown revitalization. Financial information, statistics and incentives presented by Main Street create the bedrock of knowledge to aid business owners. The success of Altus’ Main Street program didn’t happen overnight. It was a gradual process that began with using the National Main Street Center’s Four-Point Approach: Organization, Design, Promotion, and Economic Vitality to downtown. It took the collaborative effort of many individuals, whether private or in business, and their special skills; all of whom have volunteered countless hours to revitalize their downtown. “Main Street Altus has been an Oklahoma Main Street community since 1992. The people involved have always given more than 100% to the organization and to our community,” said Amy Jo Cobb, Executive Director of Main Street Altus. “The tradition continues and Altus’ economic vitality is strong downtown; and our annual events grow in involvement and spectators each year!”

Candy Candy Cane Cash “Sweet” Stakes winners from a previous year.

Cobb has served as the Main Street Director since 2006. Her ability to multi-task and think fast on her feet has led the Altus Main Street group through many events alongside key community volunteers. The organization also utilizes the professionals that are offered through the Oklahoma Main Street Center (OMSC) to bring success to their program. “Our volunteer-driven program of board members, event committees and the other hundreds of passionate individuals come together to promote our program and make it successful,” says Cobb. “Our volunteers are ‘committed to creating a destination for residents and visitors to work, shop and have fun creating memories for our future, which is the mission of Main Street Altus.” Main Street Altus hosts four main events throughout the year: Walkin’ on Chalk, Rock-N-Rumble Car Show & Cruise, the Cotton Pickin’ Chili Cook-Off and their winter event, Candy Cane Cash “Sweet” Stakes. This is the 17th year of for Candy Cane Cash “Sweet” Stakes promotion boasts more than 90 participating sponsors including retail, service businesses such as attorneys and insurance agents, and media outlets. The promotion runs from Nov.12– Dec.16, and encourages shoppers to collect Candy Cane Cash tickets for a chance to win up to $12,500 in cash. “This event continues to bring the entire community together to Shop Altus First and keeps citizens spending their holiday dollars locally,” said Cobb.

Visitors to this Altus Main Street are treated to a charming downtown square

Main Street Altus promotions committee meeting, filled with enthusastic local volunteers.

Business owners, like Krystal Martin of The Booterie and Belles & Beaux, are very happy with the events and programs put together by Main Street Altus.

Together, the Main Street Altus Program Design Committee and OMSC help shop owners with building facades. Lisa Worrell, co-owner of The Enchanted Door explained, “Main Street Altus helped us to come up with the design to restore The Enchanted Door back to its original facade and helped us to apply for grants. They are generally the guardians of the downtown area.”

“Main Street Altus has delivered, and is continuing to deliver, by doing more and more as each year goes by for our downtown area,” said Martin. “She [Cobb] has given continuity to the organization and also to our city. The city leaders respect Amy Jo and know what an excellent job she does. Main Street Altus is now looked upon as the organization that gets things done.” Like other shop owners, Martin has roots to the Altus community and says she located her shop in downtown back in 1998 because of the “rich history the square has with specialty stores.” “My memories as a child contain trips downtown to the square for shopping with storekeepers that seemed more like family than just acquaintances,” said Martin. “I have always felt like the downtown square is unique and that is where the unique, small mom and pop stores should be.” The Main Street Altus Program has a number of volunteer committees that specialize in certain areas for the community. The Design Committee is made up of volunteers that work to improve the look of downtown through recognizing and restoring historic structures to their original appearance; new downtown construction to be compatible with the traditional; and improving signs, windows, and store displays for downtown streetscapes, from the sidewalks and greenery and lighting to parking.

Main Street Altus was recently a recipient of one of the Oklahoma Nonprofit Excellence Awards in the amount of $5,000 and chosen as one of the first eight communities to participate in Creative Oklahoma. The successful progression can also be attributed to the program’s longstanding, dedicated director and a volunteer board who have worked together tirelessly for a common goal. It has taken many years, but the revitalization of downtown Altus is proof that the Main Street Program works. “As buildings and storefronts were donned with new paint and facades, a positive message was conveyed to residents and business owners alike that the downtown was slowly evolving into a renewed commercial district,” said Cobb. “With the steadfast, collective skills and efforts of many, we have successfully revitalized our downtown with a new purpose and identity over the past 25 years.” Learn more about Main Street Altus at

How Local Stores Can Compete in the Digital Age HOW TO BE SEARCH-READY AND SECURE THE SALE: 1.) Make the store easy to find: •

Provide clear store contact information and store hours on social media and and the store website, as well as clear address numbers on the building.

Ensure the business is listed correctly on Google Maps.

Window displays and the front facade of the store should be enticing for consumers once they arrive.

2.) Make it convenient: The emergence of the American Express holiday season #ShopSmall campaign has helped a multitude of people rediscover historic commercial districts.

Customers want quick answers to product queries - reply to comments, emails, etc. quickly.

Detail the product specifically with a picture. Displaying products online gives a clear in-store path to making the sale.

Initiatives like #ShopSmall support longstanding efforts made by organizations that support historic commercial districts across the country. Since 1985, preserving and revitalizing these areas has been the primary mission of the Oklahoma Main Street Center (OMSC). The OMSC works with its communities and their businesses to help them find new ways to succeed in an ever-changing marketplace.

3.) Showcase your proximity:

The widespread use of mobile phones and social media has made shopping easier for consumers in many ways, both for traditional as well as online retailers. But there are additional challenges for local retailers who must compete with national chains and online competitors.

4.) Provide a great in-store experience:

What can independent retailers can do? Play to their strength – customer service and convenience (yes, convenience) because these both still win. And it’s increasingly vital for merchants to have an online presence in order to remain relevant for today’s shopper. While more than 90 percent of commerce still happens in brickand-mortar stores, consumers are researching more online before purchasing. If an online search reveals that the product is available locally and can be purchased that day without waiting for (and paying for) shipping, customers will often choose to buy locally. In addition to convenience, most consumers, when given the choice, would prefer to shop locally and support their communities. In Oklahoma, sales tax collection is the only way communities, towns and cities have to pay for public services such as police and fire. By shopping locally, more money stays in the local economy, creating jobs, investing in entrepreneurship and helping make these treasured areas a destination.

Show up in “near me” searches. There are several factors to this but an easy one is to make sure your NAP (name, address and phone number) information is consistent across as many listings and directories you can find for (yelp, yellow pages, etc.). Another factor includes making sure your website is mobile friendly.

Provide directions and contact details.

Good customer service promotes repeat purchases —be friendly, be courteous and helpful.

Make sure the store is inviting – from the sidewalk to the back of the store. Is it easy to get around in the store? Can shoppers find what they are looking for without much help?

Signage is important. Do you gift wrap? Take credit cards? Are prices displayed?

Get the customer inside the store which provides an opportunity to upsell.

Provide a way to keep in touch with this customer either through email, text or social media.

Even large chains like Best Buy and Walmart are struggling which proves that every retailer (big or small) has to rethink its operations and outreach. But don’t let that discourage you. At the end of the day, people love shopping at local stores for the convenience, service, and the personal touch they offer. Be that store. Provide great customer service. Show what you have in stock. Anticipate your customers’ needs. Make it easy for someone to find you and make their purchases because people are more impatient now and if you have it, and it’s handy? Chances are, you will secure the sale.

Main Street Directors Share Best Practices The success of every Main Street program is due in large part to the hard work of the Main Street program directors. The 28 Main Street communities are represented by an equal number of dedicated program directors who strive to improve their community every day. A couple of directors with a successful track record share their wisdom and advice on helping to sustain and grow the heart of their communities.

Faith House, Idabel Main Street:

Schaun Aker, Cherokee Main Street:

Faye House has been the program director of Idabel Main Street for nine years. She was retired but found the job to be a great opportunity to give back to the town she loved. Idabel proudly boasts eight early 1900’s buildings where the owners took great pride in carefully restoring them to their original state. The community has been steadily restoring vacant buildings with new retail. Idabel Main Street Program also received a $390,000.00 gift that was used to utilize five vacant lots downtown into an amphitheater and plaza.

Schaun Aker started with the Cherokee Main Street program in 2013 as a transplant from Indiana with a lot to learn about the area. Aker had worked as an educator and as a librarian for 20 years and was used to fostering a sense of community where ever she went which made her a great fit for the director position.

How does being in the Oklahoma Main Street Program benefit your community as a whole? First and foremost, both my board and I are proud of the fact that Oklahoma has more than 500 incorporated towns and there is a small, select few that are Main Street towns. We’ve been a main street town for almost 20 years and we get calls all year long saying “I knew this was a main street when I got to your downtown”. We are proud of that!! Our partners – the City of Idabel, Idabel Chamber of Commerce and Idabel Public Schools share that pride. Can you speak of the importance of volunteers to your Main Street Program? Main Street cannot succeed without volunteers. The very best volunteers are the ones that share your beliefs in the program and the Four-Point Approach and then volunteer/commit to a project or event and successfully complete it. Where do you get fresh/new ideas for your Main Street program? From other successful main street directors. What advice would you give to communities that are just now joining the main street program? Be bold.

How does being in the Oklahoma Main Street Program benefit your community as a whole? The networking of resources, through the Oklahoma Main Street program and the state staff’s knowledge, has allowed us to reach out for grant resource for the downtown area. Through Keep Oklahoma Beautiful this year, three buildings were painted downtown. My favorite to date is the business advice from my liaison to renovate a downtown diner, which has now turned into a thriving business that has folks waiting as long as an hour for lunch. Can you speak of the importance of volunteers to your Main Street Program? The dependence on volunteers is without a doubt our largest asset. Whether it is a downtown event such as the October Stroll that reaches up to hundreds in attendance, or the 4th of July, it is always the planning of civic minded volunteers in advance, that make things happen. Their dedication is part of why this all works. Where do you get fresh/new ideas for your Main Street program? The best place to get ideas is at the state Main Street trainings, from not only our speakers but from each other. The networking sessions are priceless, as are meet and greet dinners that explore what is happening in the area. I also go on the Main Street website, as well as checking out what other Main Streets do across the nation. What advice would you give to communities that are just now joining the main street program? Please listen to others, and above all listen to your community as a whole.


Upcoming Events and Important Dates COMPLETING RFPS WITH CENSUS AND OTHER DATABASES Upcoming workshop:

Monday, December 11, 2017, Weatherford, OK Costs: Free to attend, registration required


Filling out Requests for Proposal (RFP’s) can be a daunting task, but is critical in attracting businesses to your location. Learn how to find the data you need with a free two-hour interactive workshop with direct application for business recruitment and development in your community. The workshop will include an overview of the RFP and site selection processes, followed by a hands-on tutorial with Department of Commerce researchers on sources, databases, and strategies to help you fill out RFPs for your own community.

EDITOR-IN-CHIEF: Kimberly Hickerson

Registration and additional details at:

PHOTO CREDITS: Oklahoma Dept. of Commerce Main Street Altus


Tuesday, December 5-7, 2017 Oklahoma Weatherization Training Center, Edmond, OK Costs: Free to attend, registration required, You must attend all 3 days of the training in order to receive the Administrator Certification. Contact Kathy Gain to register.


Tuesday, December 14, 2017, 1:30 PM - 4:30 PM Armed Forces Reserve Center, Norman, OK Oklahoma Military Connection (OKMilitaryConnection) connects civilian employers with Oklahoma veterans, service members, and their families. It is a cooperation between the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission, Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education, Oklahoma National Guard, E.S.G.R., and the Oklahoma Office of Workforce Development. To register, visit

CONTRIBUTORS: Stefanie Appleton, Bryan Boone, Larry Lucas, Kelli Yadon

FOR NEW PIONEER SUBMISSIONS AND STORY IDEAS CONTACT: Kimberly Hickerson Editor-in-Chief New Pioneer (405) 815-5240 Oklahoma Department of Commerce 900 N. Stiles Ave. Oklahoma City, OK 73104 @OKcommerce

CHRISTMAS HOLIDAY Monday-Tuesday, December 26-27, 2016 State Offices Closed NEW YEAR’S DAY Monday, January 2, 2017 State Offices Closed

Issue 12 2017  

Placemaking Projects Across Oklahoma’s Main Streets, Collaborative Efforts Renew Community, How Local Stores Can Compete in the Digital Age,...

Issue 12 2017  

Placemaking Projects Across Oklahoma’s Main Streets, Collaborative Efforts Renew Community, How Local Stores Can Compete in the Digital Age,...