New Mexico MainStreet
Biennial Coordinating Program Assessment Executive Summary
August 18-‐21, 2014
Kathy La Plante, National Main Street Center, Inc. Thom Guzman, Downtown Development Consultant
The National Main Street Center, Inc., a subsidiary of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, conducted an on-site assessment of the New Mexico MainStreet program as an integral service for the renewal of the licensing agreement with New Mexico’s Economic Development Department’s New Mexico MainStreet Program (NMMS) to coordinate community based revitalization throughout the state of New Mexico. Kathy La Plante, Senior Program Officer for the National Main Street Center (NMSC) and Thom Guzman, a private sector downtown development consultant, completed the service. This executive summary encapsulates the observations gathered from surveys and face to face interviews with leaders of local Main Street programs, NMMS staff & program associates (PA), partner organizations, and the New Mexico Economic Development Department (EDD). The findings and recommendations included herewith are intended to provide the New Mexico Economic Development Department with key opportunities to continue to strengthen and improve New Mexico MainStreet’s capacity to be an effective resource to support the economic and cultural vitality of participating New Mexico MainStreet communities, Frontier communities, Arts and Cultural districts, historic plazas and historic theaters.
Summary of Observations:
NMMS continues to perform at an excellent level. It has produced amazing success with limited resources. Over the past seven years, the program has experienced phenomenal growth in spite of a national recession which saw other state coordinating programs shrink in size and scope. The professional staff (PA’s and EDD staff) provide outstanding service to all communities and are well respected by them and NMMS partners at all levels. The Director of NMMS, Rich Williams, is well respected and broadly regarded as the face of the program. Without exception, local community leaders, program partners and EDD staff recognized the dedicated service and continued leadership provided Mr. Williams. With this level of performance, it is no wonder why NMMS has earned the significant support demonstrated by the leadership of EDD. This support has allowed NMMS to venture into creative initiatives like the Frontier Communities, historic plazas and historic theaters. Mr. Williams and EDD made a wise decision when through the National Main Street Center, they contracted with Place Economics in 2013 to research the long-term impacts of the NMMS program. This economic impact study verified through many measures the amazing 28 year history of NMMS’s return on investment to the taxpayers of New Mexico are reaping for investing in the state program. Without exception, NMMS is one of the most successful economic development initiatives at EDD. The team was pleased to see EDD implement a number of recommendations from the 2011 assessment, including the commitment to post and eventually hire a Deputy Main Street Director.
The NMSC conducted a survey of NMMS executive directors and board presidents. Responses were received from 19 executive directors and 18 board presidents.
When asked “which NMMS services were most beneficial or rated the highest”, the top three responses were: Executive directors: basic training, workshops & on-site consultations Board presidents: e-newsletter & social media, workshops and telephone assistance When asked “what is the one thing that NMMS does best, that you do not want changed”, the top responses were: Executive directors: support & energy, trainings, networking and technical assistance Board presidents: technical assistance and trainings When asked “what is the biggest challenge for your board or program, the top responses were: Executive directors: engagement by the board, volunteers, businesses, and, funding Board presidents: private sector financial support, and membership When asked “what services would you like NMMS to provide to address these challenges”, the top responses were: Executive directors: additional trainings, regionalized workshops, advocacy for local program, state level policy, executive board training, and advice on improving communication to local public Board presidents: additional project funding, best practices, grant writing, educating property owners on tax credits, lobbying on anti-donation legislation, and board training
When asked “how important is Capital Outlay to your municipal leaders/partners to retain your program’s municipal support?”, the responses were overwhelming “very important, extremely important, critical” from both executive directors and board presidents.
Consider developing distance learning systems in order to more efficiently provide training opportunities, especially targeting local board members. One hour webinars, two hour video broadcasts (fiber optic network?) where attendees can connect locally are effective ways to bring shorter training segments to a large number of board members quarterly. This should eliminate or greatly reduce the amount of time currently dedicated to repeating board and basic training individually in local communities. In order to maintain NMMS’s high level of quality services to address community needs, every PA and NMMS staff should start including a survey for every site visit which is returned to NMMS for review. The survey should outline the community’s overall satisfaction with the service and next steps taken or needed to address the purpose of the visit.
Consider teaming up PA tech visits, when appropriate, to provide greater efficiency and clearer understanding at the local level of the strong relationships between Design & Economic Positioning; Promotion & Economic Positioning; Promotion & Design; Organization & Economic Positioning, etc. To better coordinate and track site visits, require PA’s and NMMS staff to regularly post to and utilize Google calendar. Make this a requirement in all PA contracts. Add developing a mentoring program for new executive directors to the Organization PA contract. One of the Organization PA’s could be assigned to take the lead on establishing guidelines, making mentor assignments and monitoring the process. Continue to expand opportunities to invite partners to participate in on-site tech visits. Depending on the local issues, partners could come from NMDOT, Tourism, SHPO, UNM, KNMB, EDD, DNR, etc. Take the time to survey affiliate communities who have received BBER and DPAC services during the last 5 years to learn from them if the services were timely or too soon. Did they have the capacity to understand the findings and implement the recommendations at that stage in their Main Street development. How was the follow-up assistance? NMMS should consider purchasing ESRI market data for use in economic positioning with every affiliate. This is a cost effective method to retrieve up to date market data for each participating community. Invite Division Director, Therese Varela to participate in on-site tech visits to see how the PA’s interact with the affiliate communities in the field. This will provide the Division Director with a greater understanding of the type and quality of the services offered through NMMS. Consider expanding scholarship amounts for the National Main Streets Conference for local board members. Provide up to five full scholarships annually which could include registration, lodging and transportation, which will further develop local leadership. Recipients would only be eligible to receive this scholarship once. In 2015, the NMSC will be offering National Certification Institute once again. Consider offering registration scholarships for local executive directors to attend in order to build their professional development skills.
The “Impacts of MainStreet, 1985-2013” study is now six months old. EDD only has about 12 months to use this data before it is considered old information. Consider sharing the findings of this study through presentations to such statewide organizations as League of Municipalities, County Supervisors, Chambers of Commerce, Economic Development Professionals, Realtors, etc. Request time at their regularly scheduled workshops or conferences to take the message to them. Send the report to statewide business journals and newspapers. With the upcoming addition of the Deputy Main Street Director, it is the perfect time to restructure NMMS to give the Director more time for policy, partnership development, program planning and outreach. Develop appropriate position descriptions to better define the roles and responsibilities of each position. A professional with extensive Main Street experience should be recruited for this position who can teach the Main Street Approach®. Local or other state Main Street experience will assure affiliates receive continued high quality services from NMMS.
As more affiliates and participants are added to NMMS, it is important to maintain quality service through staff expansion. A good rule of thumb is for every 5 to 6 affiliate Main Street communities, NMMS should have 1 full time equivalent (FTE) traveling staff position (NMMS staff or PA) who provides on-site technical assistance. With 27 certified, start-up and emerging affiliates, and potentially 3 new emerging communities this fall for a total of 30, this translates into 5 or 6 FTE positions. Additionally, within the Arts & Cultural Districts, Frontier Communities, Historic Theaters Initiative, there are currently 19 participating districts, communities or projects which take staff time and resources, with8 new Frontier Communities to be added this fall. The current make-up of traveling PA’s and NMMS staff combined equals approximately 6.7 FTE’s, which translates into providing quality services to a maximum of 40 participating Main Street communities, not including the additional initiatives under the NMMS umbrella. As the program grows, keeping this ratio in mind will allow EDD to continue to provide quality services and experience the high level return on investment so well documented in the Rypkema study. In order to accommodate program growth in the foreseeable future, consider adding an additional NMMS traveling staff position in the Department who can deliver specialized and basic technical assistance, and at least one PA with real estate development, Community Initiated Development (CID), and tax credit packaging expertise with a slant to economic positioning. This was a critical need identified in the community surveys. Again, additional staffing will be required as more communities and initiatives are added under the NMMS umbrella. Long term, it may make sense to have NMMS field staff who can provide the “core” (basic) level of services under the 4 Points and then continue to utilize Program Associates for specialized and advanced services to affiliates. This scenario would envision a Director, Deputy Director, Program Management Coordinator, 4 field staff and administration staff plus the bevy of Program Associates. With the expected program expansion in 2015, an additional administrative staff person will also be needed. Work with the Program Associates to require continuing professional development education as a condition for renewing contracts. This will assist in helping them stay abreast of cutting edge trends and solutions in their respective fields of expertise. Take the lessons learned working with the ZUNI Main Street program relative to timelines, culture, customs, and service delivery into consideration as NMMS eventually expands to work with other Tribal districts. Work with affiliate communities to increase their advocacy efforts by encouraging them to invite their elected legislators to tour their districts to discuss successes, challenges and needs before the legislative session. Work with the Coalition of New Mexico Main Street Communities to encourage the Coalition to meet with knowledgeable legislators to discuss collective issues, challenges and needs prior to the legislative session.
The need for Capital Outlay grants remains huge in participating NMMS communities. The Coalition of New Mexico Main Street Communities, Resiliency Alliance and EDD need to continue working to recapitalize this fund and the Arts & Cultural District Capital Fund at the Department of Cultural Affairs.
Continue with the practice of having EDD Department leadership present Capital Outlay and PNM grant checks on-site. Consider inviting legislators to assist in making the presentations. The Resiliency Alliance should work with EDD to develop a similar on-site award. Tie attendance at trainings, including future on-line trainings, as a condition of eligibility for applying for grants.
Contact partners, within EDD, other state agencies and outside philanthropic organizations and ask if extra consideration could be given for grant applicants from NMMS affiliates. In discussions with partners, it was widely acknowledged that NMMS affiliates have greater capacity to accomplish projects and initiatives as a result of their involvement with Main Street. The Resiliency Alliance with NMMS should consider meeting with Community Foundations to discuss how local Main Street affiliates could partner with them to establish long-term funding opportunities for their local programs. Explore the possibility with the Local Government Division of the New Mexico Department of Finance and Administration of utilizing CDBG claw back dollars to fund downtown revitalization projects. These are funds which were at one time awarded to projects across the state which for various reasons are returned to the state when the project did not move forward. Contact Tim Waddell, Division Administrator for the Community Development Division, Iowa Economic Development Authority to learn how Iowa has utilized these claw back funds. Contact info: firstname.lastname@example.org 515/725-3002; IEDA, 200 E. Grand Avenue, Des Moines, IA 50309 Recommend to the Coalition of New Mexico Main Street Communities that they invite other NMMS program participants, Frontier, ACD, Historic Theaters, and Historic Plazas to become financial supporters of the Coalition. The broader their membership, the greater their ability to support all the work of NMMS. Consider finding a financial partner, or encourage UNM, to support a study on the results of the DPAC and BBER visits in local communities and to develop best practices which could be used in the future to better educate and prepare future recipients. Hold an annual program and planning retreat with SHPO to discuss common issues, challenges, collaborations and initiatives. Invite other partners as needed (EDD programs, Tourism, CDBG, etc). Work with SHPO and NMDOT to each establish a liaison to meet regularly and jointly work on collaboration with NMMS. Continue to explore tourism partnerships with the New Mexico Tourism Department. In recognition of NMMS’s 30th anniversary, request space in the 2015 tourism guide and state map. Discuss coop marketing possibilities and special designation in future publications recognizing each affiliate as a NMMS community. Consider applying to USDA – Rural Community Development Initiatives (RCDI) for a grant to expand the work of NMMS. Grants are for up to a 3 year period and for up to $250,000 which must be matched with in-kind and financial commitment from NMMS. These funds could potentially support NMMS capacity building initiatives in Frontier Communities, Historic Plazas, Historic Theaters, and Main Street affiliates. Contact Tim Waddell, IEDA (contact info above), to learn how Iowa has utilized two of these grants to support their work in Main Street communities.
With the addition of a Deputy Main Street Director this year, and a Program Management Coordinator in the coming year, it is critical to develop accurate and usable position descriptions which define roles and responsibilities for each staff person. As new positions are added, having accurate position descriptions for each staff is critical. Sample position descriptions and performance plans have been shared with the NMMS Director. The current NMMS Director is eligible and may choose to retire within the next 3 – 4 years. Once the Main Street Director determines a date for retirement is when the NMMS succession plan starts to be implemented. Personal experience indicates that it is helpful to have 18 to 24 months to implement this plan. Since it may take some time to find the appropriate candidate to fill the role of Director, steps must be taken to assure partners, legislators and constituents become familiar with the rest of the NMMS leadership. With the anticipated retirement of Rich Williams within a few years, someone with extensive Main Street knowledge will be needed. The Deputy Main Street Director and Program Management Coordinator should shadow the Director as he meets with legislators, partners and other state government representatives so he/she can be introduced. The retention of the remaining dedicated and committed staff must be part of the succession plan as well. Current staff should have formal performance reviews and appropriate merit raises. Lastly, the Director’s salary is quite low when compared to state coordinating programs of similar size and tenure on the job. The program has functioned at a high level of performance with significant growth of new programs and affiliates in recent years. The Director should have a formal performance review and appropriate merit raise as well.
2015 is NMMS’s 30th anniversary. Congratulations on achieving such a great milestone. It is time to celebrate and reflect on the tremendous success the program has had on New Mexico. The NMMS team asked for input and ideas on ways in which NMMS might mark this occasion. The Pearl is the traditional 30th Anniversary theme. How can it be utilized to commemorate Main Street’s 30th anniversary? Make the celebration last all year! Consider encouraging your affiliates to engage their local communities to sign up for “30 Days of Volunteering” for Main Street in 2015. Work with the affiliates to develop a “30/30 Challenge” for 2015. Have them go on a campaign to get community citizens to donate $30 and dedicate 30 hours to their local Main Street program. Develop a web page that explores “30 Ways to Experience Main Street in New Mexico” for 2015. Work with affiliates to consider doing “30 Festivals in 30 Days”. Do a You Tube video celebrating your 30th. Work with the Department of Tourism to get NMMS into the 2015 Tourism Guide, Web pages, and state map. Encourage your affiliates to develop “30 Minute Walking Tours” celebrating 30 Years of Main Street in each of their districts.
Make lists of the “30 Best Things in Each Main Street District” for your web site. Celebrate the 30 Best Board Members at your bi-annual awards celebration. Create a “30 Best Moments in NMMS’s History” collection. Market “30 Years of Enchanting New Mexico Main Streets”. Develop a 30th Anniversary Logo for letterhead, web, newsletter, etc. Develop a poster depicting “30 Years” in all the diverse languages spoken in New Mexico. (Thirty, Treinta, etc.)
The New Mexico Main Street program has matured into an outstanding program with statewide reach. It has garnered the respect and support of many major partners, both within and outside state government. It has a unique structure for providing services that works well in New Mexico. The state staff is responsible for crafting the team and developing this excellent reputation. They deserve the accolades and all the support necessary to keep up the excellent work. The NMMS affiliates, which are a rural community development initiative and part of EDD Cabinet Secretary Jon Barela’s “Rural Renaissance”, Frontier Communities, Historic Theaters and Historic Plazas need the assistance and are depending on NMMS to help them have a better economic future. The challenge is that past program success breeds higher expectations. It is an exciting time for New Mexico Main Street. Keep up the great work. We want to thank the focus group and interview participants: EDD Cabinet Secretary Jon Barela EDD Deputy Cabinet Secretary Barbara Brazil EDD Legal Counsel Wade Jackson EDD Division Director Therese Varela Sarah Haring, EDD, JTIP Antoinette Vigil, EDD Financial Team Julie Blanke, EDD, NMMS Allison Kennedy, EDD, NMMS Jon Clark, Staff, Legislative Finance Committee Tourism Department, Audrey Herrera-Castillo SHPO, Jeff Pappas, HPD, DCA Historic Preservation Division, Pilar Cannizzaro, Division Director Bureau of Business and Economic Research, UNM, Director Jeff Mitchell Dean of UNM School of Architecture and Planning, Geraldine Forbes Michael Pride, Architect, UNM-SAP Ted Jojola, Director Indigenous Design and Planning Institute USDA Regional Director, Terry Brunner Eduardo Martinez, Chair Resiliency Alliance Francis Bee, President, Coalition Tabitha Lawson, Vice President, Coalition Rebecca Pendergast, Coalition Rhona Espinosa, Coalition
Erick Aune, V.P. Resiliency Alliance Nelsy Domingues, Resiliency Alliance Claudia Issac, Resiliency Alliance Bianca Mitchell, Resiliency Alliance Allison Smith, Coalition Advocate And the Program Associates of New Mexico MainStreet: Elmo Baca, Amy Barnhart, Robyne Beaubien, Charlie Deans, Keith Kjelstrom, Eduardo Martinez, William Powell The New Mexico MainStreet Team, July, 2014