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A 'main' event: Minnesota Main Street Program presents in Worthington

Worthington Director of Community and Economic Development Brad Chapulis (right) addresses those attending the Considering Main Street meeting Tuesday night at BenLee’s Café in Worthington. (BRIAN KORTHALS/DAILY GLOBE)

WORTHINGTON — Three to five seconds.

That’s how long businesses have to attract more than half of its new customers.

Sixty percent of people make a decision on going into a new business in less than five seconds, according to Emily Northey, Program Coordinator for Minnesota Main Street, said. “That’s all the time for over half of all the potential new folks to go into a business that you have to tell them whether or not it’s worthwhile, based on what the business looks like on the outside.”

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With approximately 50 people in attendance Tuesday night during a Considering Main Street workshop at BenLee’s Café, Northey outlined the program offered by Minnesota Main Street, which is offered through the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota. One of the aspects of Main Street is to help improve store fronts in an effort to attract more new customers.

“I won’t say the only great towns are towns with Main Street programs, but the Main Street programs are a really good tool to help a community make their downtown to be what they really want it to be,” Northey said.

“In some communities, some work around the four points — design, organization, promotion and economic restructuring — has been happening,” she said. “It’s not necessarily being done with a common goal. Sometimes there is overlap, there are opportunities that are missed. 

“The Main Street program is a really great way to take advantages of all the work that’s already happening and also to give more structure for what else can be done,” Northey added.

While Tuesday night’s meeting was more about presenting ideas and planting the seed for future ideas, Northey said it was a good first step.

“To start, you need a sense of consensus of ‘do we want to pursue this,”’ she said. “At any point along the way, if the answer is no, then it’s done. But if you keep saying yes, then I would say — given the great turnout here — I don’t know if another public meeting makes sense. But you definitely want to open up the investigative process to the wider community.”

Brad Chapulis, director of community/economic Development for Worthington, said the idea for hosting the workshop originated in 2011. 

“The purpose and intent of that was to look at preserving and strengthening our downtown business core,” Chapulis said. “There has been collaboration between city staff, the Chamber staff and other representatives to explore the Main Street program.”

Northey said years ago, downtown was the primary location commerce was taking place within the community. However, that isn’t necessarily the case anymore. 

“It took us a long time for downtowns to get to where they are to a point where people are coming out on a cold night to hear me talk about Main Street programs,” she said. “It will also take us a while to get back to that point. It will never be the same; it will be different.”

The design point within the Main Street program focuses upon the outside of the buildings, while organization is about engaging the public. Promotion is letting others know what businesses are doing, while economic restructuring focuses on improving the business. Often, those are four committees within the program. 

While the program is named after Main Street, that doesn’t mean the ideas and concepts can’t be used in other parts of town.

“While Main Street focuses on the downtown district, it’s all inclusive to the rest of the community in the concepts the volunteers learn,” Northey said. “Why is it all inclusive? Because everyone’s affected by Main Street.”

Northey said the best way to begin is to start small.

“Start with small projects where you can show success,” she said. 

To make that happen, Northey said there must be a public-private partnership.

“I’m really excited to see people from the city, businesses and other sectors of the community here today,” she said. “It’s more than what just the private sector and the businesses can do all on their own, and it’s more than what the city and local government can do on its own. It takes both working together for a common goal and a shared vision.”

It also takes a push from the community.

“It’s self-help,” Northey said. “I’m here to tell you about this program, and I can help you figure out what the different steps are and help facilitate discussions. But I can’t be a volunteer on your design committee and figuring out what kind of banners should go up.”

Daily Globe Community ContentCoordinator Aaron Hagen may be reached at 376-7323.