Illinois Main Street Conference

This week I had the opportunity to attend the 2013 Illinois Main Street Conference.

As always, it was great to see friends and colleagues from across the State. These conferences are a great opportunity to learn new ideas, trends, tips and tricks. It’s always energizing and exciting to see all the great projects and initiatives that people are doing.

There were a few things that stood out for me at this year’s conference. First, Pontiac was a very good host community. They put together an informative conference which will hopefully make us more effective here in Quincy. I am fortunate to have some amazing colleagues throughout the State. One that I got to know a little better this trip was Joi Cuartero from Batavia, IL. Joi is truly impressive, and someone I have a great deal of respect for. She always has new ideas, creative solutions to problems and a positive attitude. I am always inspired by her to continue to be better here in Quincy. I was also fortunate to sit through a session by Diane Williams of Business Districts, Inc. (BDI). I have known Diane since joining the Main Street movement, but she is always a great presenter who provides top-level analysis of modern trends, excellent resources and wonderful information that makes me a better Economic Development professional. I take these conferences seriously because I truly believe they are a great opportunity to get better at my job. These two talented women, and many others like them, make it very easy to learn from them and hopefully bring some new practices back home.

It was also a privilege to be presented with the 2013 Outstanding Innovation Award at the Gala on Wednesday evening. As exciting as that was, it was quickly trumped watching one of our most active volunteers Bret Austin of Austin Properties receive the 2013 Outstanding Main Street Property Owner! I was thrilled to see them recognized for their efforts on a statewide basis. We are planning an event to highlight the awards next week, so I will hold some comments on the awards until then. The final positive was the direction the IMS community seems to be going. There is a lot of momentum behind the program and some changes coming our way that I am excited to be a part of.

The conference wasn’t all sunshine and roses however. It definitely pointed out some things we need to be focused on here in Quincy. Pontiac was incredibly clean. So much so that it was obvious how much work we have yet to do. We will be working on this very seriously and very strongly in the coming weeks. We also have a few things to tweak on our website to help make us more of a resource for those looking to start a business. We have some great partners with some wonderful information but we aren’t helping direct the right information to them as clearly as we can. This is another fix we will be spending time on.

I will say, the conference did the same thing that it always does for me though. Gets me excited to get back to work! I leave each conference excited to implement all the new tools and strategies on Day 1. Day 1 is now done, and the only thing I really got to implement was digging out from the pile of emails and paperwork. However, we’re on the right track, we’re leading and we’ve got some great things coming that I can’t wait to share!

-Travis M. Brown, Executive Director