Monday, April 29, 2013

What I Learned in New Orleans

Now that I've been back from the National Main Streets Conference for about a week and a half, I've started to reflect on the trip.  Did I enjoy the trip?  Hey, I was in New Orleans - of course I enjoyed the trip!  More importantly,  did I learn anything?  Absolutely! Having attended 15+ national conferences so far, I think I have a pretty good idea what I hope to get out of the conference each time and New Orleans certainly did not disappoint.  I typically have two goals - recharge my Main Street batteries and get my brain spinning with new ideas.  The recharging is easy.  If you can't get excited about what we do after spending 4 days with Main Streeters from across the country, you might be in the wrong business.  But getting my brain moving, that takes a bit more effort.  This was also a very different conference for me because of a few other distractions that we'll get to shortly.  So back to the big question, what did I learn?

Main Street Is Forever

It's easy to say, but you really have to believe it.  I had the pleasure of presenting a session at this year's conference, "Secrets of a Main Street Manager".  Different from my sessions in the past, I decided rather than focusing on best practices and giving lots of ideas to R & D, instead I would switch things up and talk about something that I know many of my fellow managers struggle with all the time - how to keep going.  While I'm sure that most of you know what an incredibly "glamorous" job Main Street Managers have, sometimes you have those days, those people, those projects that make you ask yourself a very dangerous question, "Why Am I Doing This?" Indeed, while most people in your community would never guess, self-doubt is something we all engage in on a regular basis.  While I've been told that I have confidence to spare when it comes to my job (actually, I think the word was cocky), I always worry that my greatest fear might come true and that I will become irrelevant.  They say that admitting your fear is part of the solution, so I guess that's why I'm always attending conferences, volunteering for new projects and writing this blog.  I'm not just trying to stay relevant, but continuing to create relevancy for our entire Main Street Movement in my own little way.

Awards Don't Suck

In case you hadn't heard, my town, Rochester, Michigan was the proud recipient of a 2013 Great American Main Street Award.  It was our third attempt at the award and amongst friends, I had become known as the Susan Lucci of the GAMSAs.  As you might imagine, I was eager to shake off that curse and bring it on home.  It was especially sweet because of the location.  Back in 2006, we were in New Orleans for the National Main Streets Conference.  It was my first conference since I had come back to the Rochester DDA after my hiatus and stepping into the Director's Chair.  I remember vividly having dinner at Emeril's with my volunteers and Marketing Coordinator, talking about how the DDA was off-track and brainstorming ways to get us back where we needed to be.  Fast forward to 2013 and there I was, sitting at Emeril's again with my team talking about winning GAMSA.  I've always been one to say that you shouldn't measure success by the number of awards on your wall, but this one is a little different.  For me, it's less about success and more about the journey taken to this point and continuing to challenge ourselves to see where we take things from here.

Michigan Main Street Peeps Rock

For anyone who attended the Closing Session, you got a sneak peek of what awaits you in 2014 in Detroit.  For those who didn't, imagine the lights going out and a hush falling over the crowd as the Opportunity Detroit Spot from the World Series hits the screen.  With Kid Rock's Bawitdaba playing in the background, it is immediately clear that 2014 in Detroit will be like no other conference you've attended. Then Kid Rock's Detroit, Michigan hits the speakers and dozens of Michigan Main Streeters hit the crowd, passing out Faygo pop and Detroit 2014 conference swag.  The crowd got so pumped up that a spontaneous dance party broke out! 

Many cities host the conference to show off their successes.  What's amazing about Detroit is that while we will be showcasing our successes and true soul of our city, we absolutely exemplify the theme of the conference, "Works In Progress".  Detroit has so much to be proud of and there are good people making amazing things happen every day.  To me, that is what Main Street is all about and why we do what we do.  I truly believe that Detroit 2014 is the conference people will talk about for years to come.

See you The D in 2014!

The Downtown Geek