aLABama Downtown Laboratory

Date: Aug 22, 2018 - Aug 24, 2018
Time: 12:00pm – 12:00pm
Host organization: Main Street Alabama
Phone Contact: 205.516.4506
Email Contact:
Location: 333 East Broad Street Eufaula, AL 36027

Join Main Street Alabama August 22-24 in Eufaula for the 5th Annual aLABama Downtown Laboratory as we bring all of the elements of the Main Street Four Point Approach® together. Learn how working in all areas of the approach simutaneously can be the most significant method to move the needle in your downtown. Come Togther with other downtown enthusiasts and build a vital network for your local efforts.

  • Norma Ramirez de Miess, is a Senior Program Officer and Director of Leadership Development for the National Main Street Center. Norma has found a unique niche in Main Street’s revitalization work. With over 20 years of hands-on experience, she is driven by a passion to help communities build consensus, define strategies, and implement successful revitalization programs. Her direct experience leading local downtown revitalization provides a depth of knowledge and understanding in all aspects involved with building strong community-driven efforts. Norma’s entrepreneurial upbringing gives her a strong understanding of the needs and challenges of small businesses. Her previous work in heritage tourism offers tools to promote our communities’ unique characteristics. And her civil engineering education makes a strong connection with planning and implementation of physical improvements. Norma utilizes her multicultural background and solid bilingual skills to help communities understand changing demographics, capitalize on the value of diversity to local economies, and strive to build more inclusive organizations. Her natural ability to connect and motivate people makes her a favorite speaker at national and state-wide conferences. She is committed to supporting the role of Main Street directors and volunteers, conducting professional development and volunteer leadership trainings that instill a strong sense of ownership and value in leading revitalization efforts.
  • Todd Barman, is Principal of Barman Development Strategies.  With more than 20 years of experience in the development field and more than 16 years firsthand Main Street experience, Barman’s expertise in market analysis is widely recognized. As a national leader, Todd convenes discussion groups on ways to better approach market analysis and help communities put economic restructuring principles into practice more effectively. Todd is known throughout the United States and into Canada for his work in downtown development planning and refining Main Street’s asset-based economic development strategies. His areas of expertise include capacity building and evaluation of local Main Street programs, organizational and community planning, entrepreneurship, targeted market research, and commercial district market position.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018 

PreLab Session 12:00 PM - 2:00 PM: Rural Communities Luncheon with KaCee Holt, Director of the Colquitt Miller Georgia Chamber of Commerce. Eufaula Barbour Chamber of Commerce, 333 East Broad Street  

Session Description: Think you are too small for an impactful placemaking/public art project? Learn how Colquitt, GA, population 1,910, took a popular community event and turned it into a nationally funded Project for Millennium with original funding by NEA. Digging deep after the conclusion of the grant, the community found the momentum to privately fund more pieces of public art, with the largest project being funded in part by the USDA. This inspiring story will include topics from call to artists to estimated numbers of visitors and economic impact on the community and downtown. *Separate Ticket Required-Limited Seating

1:30 PM – 2:30 PM: Conference Registration Open Eufaula Barbour Chamber of Commerce, 333 East Broad Street


Opening Plenary3:30 PM – 5:00 PM: Confrence welcome and Todd Barman: How to Embrace and Join the Maker Movement, Eufaula Barbour Chamber of Commerce, 333 East Broad Street


Session Description: Most Main Street districts have vacancies that need filling; if not on the first floor, most certainly on upper floors. Efforts to fill vacancies focus on retail in part because of nostalgia for the district’s lost retail, but where is nostalgia for the district’s lost makers? Our historic commercial districts used to be filled with skilled trades and crafts people. The Maker Movement offers historic commercial districts an opportunity to reconnect with that past while filling vacancies. Maker careers and industries include electronics, robotics, 3-D printing, metalworking, woodworking, arts and crafts, food and beverage production, making clothing and musical instruments; all of which fit downtown. During this workshop learn how to reposition a whole district or simply attract and support more makers through the examples from Wheeling, West Virginia and Fredericksburg, Virginia. Each community is using a market and vision driven approach to transforming their respective districts; strengthening their maker-based economies. 

Social 5:15 PM - 7:00 PM: Cocktails and Columns hosted by Main Street Eufaula. Enjoy cocktails, hor ders vers and the beautiful architecture of one of Alabama's most beautiful historic homes.  Shorter Mansion 340 West Eufaula Avenue *No fee to attend but registration is required. Onsite Parking Available.  

Thursday, August 23, 2018

NEW! 8:00 AM – 9:30 AM: Urban Breakfast with Norma Meiss: Understanding the Business Approach & Design Values of Diverse/Minority Entrepreneurs. Eufaula Barbour Chamber of Commerce, 333 East Broad Street

Sesion Description: The U.S. is more diverse than ever before and this trend is anticipated to continue within the next several decades. Throughout the continued changes to our economy, diverse or minority entrepreneurs have not only stayed loyal to our historic downtowns and neighborhood commercial districts but continue to support their growing vitality with unique products and personable services. This session will highlight key common ground and unique differences in the approach of multicultural entrepreneurs to business and property development, and address some of the challenges they face in starting and growing a business in our communities. Considering their preference for Downtown environments and strong entrepreneurial upbringing, this session is a must for local leaders looking to understand and engage this growing sector of our populations.  *Separate Ticket Required-Limited Seating

8:30 AM – 9:30 AM: Conference Registration open and conference sessions at Eufaula Chamber of Commerce Depot 333 E. Broad Street 

10:00 AM – 11:00 AM: General Session: Fund Alabama - Alex Flachsbart, Chase Fisher. Eufaula Chamber of Commerce Depot 333 E. Broad Street 

Session Description: Fund Alabama is a digital platform designed to attract private capital to businesses and developments in distressed communities around the state. Come hear about how Fund Alabama’s founders, Chase Fisher and Alex Flachsbart, are creating a new ecosystem around impact investing here in Alabama – and how your community can benefit from participating in the process.

NEW! 11:15 AM – 12:00 PM: Power Hour: Rapid Fire Sessions featuring brief presentations on great projects in Alaabma from learning how to repurpose used banners with Dixie Decorations to launching a locally driven grant fund with the Gumption Fund and everything in between.  Eufaula Chamber of Commerce Depot 333 E. Broad Street 

12:00 PM– 1:30 PM: Lunch and Retail Therapy on your own, Downtown Eufaula

1:30 PM – 3:00 PM: General Session with Todd Barman: How You Can Improve the Likelihood of a Successful Building Rehabilitation and Business Startup Process. Eufaula Chamber of Commerce Depot 333 E. Broad Street 

Session Description: Main Street Programs want more and better building rehabilitations and business startups, but how can they make that happen when they aren’t the building or business owner? With little or no financial involvement, they certainly aren’t the final decision maker. There are many points along the path to a completed building rehabilitation or business startup where the process can go awry or stall. Each of those points is an opportunity for Main Street staff and volunteers to help building and business owners and to influence the quality and likelihood of the end product. During this workshop learn more about the process of starting a business and rehabilitating a building start to finish through a detailed case study of the presenter’s late 1930s gas station rehabilitation and Sweet Shoppe startup. Topics covered include commercial market research; commercial appraisal; building purchase; environmental assessment and remediation; building, site, and business concept design; municipal zoning and state health codes and permitting; traditional and nontraditional financing; general contracting; phasing; Point-of-Sale (POS); website design and optimization; negotiation; relationship building; and more. Presented by Pathway Lending

3:15 PM – 4:15 PM: General Session with Norma Meiss: Generational Changes and Downtowns.  Eufaula Chamber of Commerce Depot 333 E. Broad Street 

Session Description: With great attention placed in recent years to studying generational attitudes and preferences, research continues to offer very important information on how Baby Boomers have influenced community development and now how Millennials are also reshaping the future of our communities -big and small. This session will highlight generational trends and their current and anticipated impact in the different aspects of community life. And as Alabama continues to experience generational changes to its demographics in the years to come, this topic becomes even more important for communities looking to understand how to address the needs of their populations and attract more generational diversity to ensure continually growing economies. 

4:15 PM – 5:00 PM: General Sesssion with Design Alabama: Connectlivity with Gina Clifford and Ben Weisman.  Eufaula Chamber of Commerce Depot 333 E. Broad Street 

Session Description: Connectlivity is a collection of destination itineraries for the state of Alabama including the following; Alabama Makers, Architecture, Arts, Cars, Motorcycles and Rockets, Civil Rights, African American, Claims to Fame, Food & Beverage, Kid Friendly, Native American, Natural Wonders, Outdoor and Who Knew. Gina Clifford of Design Alabama and Ben Weisman, Planner, Architect and Developer will tell you about the iItineraries and the stories behind the project. Each itinerary has been thoughtfully curated with a distinctive Alabama theme. The maps are loaded with helpful recommendations. A great way to promote the state and what is in, or near, your community! 

6:15 PM: Pre-banquet Social: Join Regions and raise aglass to celebrate the best projects on Alabama's Main Streets. LakePoint State Park Ball Room *This event is included with Awards for Excellence Ticket 


7:00 PM – 9:00 PM: Awards for Excellence: Join Alabama Municipal Electric Authority, Main Street Alabama and our special guests as we celebrate the successes of our local Main Street programs with a dinner and awards pogram. LakePoint State Park Ball Room *Separate ticket required- Limited Seating

Friday, August 24, 2018 

Session is focused on Designated Main Street Programs 8:30 AM – 11:30 AM Transformation Strategies with Laura Krisov, Michigan Main Street.  Lake Point State Park Riverside Room 

Session Description: The Main Street Approach is centered around Transformation Strategies which articulates a focused, deliberate path to revitalizing or strengthening a downtown or commercial district’s economy. A program’s work on Transformation Strategies should be organized around the Four Points: Economic Vitality, Design, Promotion, and Organization and needs to be informed by a solid understanding of local and regional market data, as well as sustained and inclusive community engagement. 

Michigan Main Street developed a strong process to successfully guide each of their 21 communities through the implementation of the refreshed Main Street Approach. Attendees will be trained on the three-step process Michigan Main Street developed. Attendees can expect to hear important best practices and lessons learned with a framework that can be tailored to implement the refreshed Main Street Approach in Designated Main Street cities with the assistance of Main Street Alabama. 

*All separate ticket items may be purchased as a single transaction using the link below.  

 Please select No Confernce Registration, Special Events Only



Our Main Streets are places of shared memory where people still come together to live, work and play.