6th Annual aLABama Downtown Laboratory

Date: Aug 21, 2019 - Aug 23, 2019
Time: 11:00am – 11:30am
Host organization: Main Street Alabama
Phone Contact: 205-516-4506
Email Contact: marylon@mainstreetalabama.org
Website: http://events.constantcontact.com/register/event?llr=ht656jlab&oeidk=a07egc0u0y30e3e2713

Join Main Street Alabama August 21-23 in Decatur for the 6th Annual aLABama Downtown Laboratory as we bring all the elements of the Main Street Four Point Approach® together. Explore how working in all areas of the approach simultaneously can be the most significant method to move the needle in your downtown. Learn about Ideas in Action from across the state with other downtown enthusiasts and how to build a vital network for your local efforts.

National thought leaders and strategic implementation experts presenting at this year's LAB include:
  • Charles Marohn is the Founder and President of Strong Towns. He's a Professional Engineer (PE) licensed in the State of Minnesota and a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP). Marohn has a bachelor's degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Minnesota's Institute of Technology and a Master of Urban and Regional Planning degree from the University of Minnesota's Humphrey Institute. Marohn is the lead author of Thoughts on Building Strong Towns — Volume 1Volume 2  and Volume 3 — as well as the author of A World Class Transportation System. He hosts the Strong Towns Podcast and is a primary writer for Strong Towns’ web content. He has presented Strong Towns concepts in hundreds of cities and towns across North America and in 2017 was named one of the 10 Most Influential Urbanists of all time by Planetizen.
  • Kathy LaPlante is a Senior Program Officer and the Director of Coordinating Program Services at the National Main Street Center. Kathy’s expertise at the Center is building organizational capacity, developing promotional programming and transformation strategy implementation.  Working for the National Main Street Center, she provides training for cities of all sizes using the Main Street Approach®.  Prior to this position, she was the Director of the New Hampshire Main Street Center, and assisted communities in initiating local Main Street programs in 23 cities. Kathy began her Main Street career in 1989 as the Executive Director of the Chippewa Falls Main Street Program, a 1996 GAMSA winner. 
  • David Leckey is the Executive Director of the Orton Family Foundation in Vermont. David grew up in Van Buren, Ohio, (pop. 342) where he was imbued with Midwest friendliness that garnered him friends all over the world. Before joining Orton, he lived in Minnesota where he was Executive Vice President of Dane Technologies and President of its subsidiary, LEVO USA—a combined $20 million company he helped found. While he traveled extensively in Europe, Asia, and Australia, his heart was in small-town America. A steadfast believer in the wisdom of local people, David launched rural programs for business development, job creation, and revitalization in his roles as a nonprofit and state government executive. He enjoys skiing, boating, and spending time with his family.
  • David T. Downey CAE, is President & CEO of the International Downtown Association (IDA) and is responsible for the overall strategic positioning of IDA as a world leader and champion for vital and livable urban centers. Prior to joining the IDA, David served as the Managing Director for the American Institute of Architects’ Urban Design Center and as Executive Director for the Michigan Chapter of the American Planning Association. David has been a city advocate since 1989 having received his degree in Architecture and Design with a focus on Urban Design from Lawrence Technological University. He is currently serving on the boards of the Mount Vernon Triangle CID in Washington, DC and the Responsible Hospitality Institute. David, his wife Margie and three sons have called Northern Virginia home since 2004.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019 

PreLab Session 12:00 PM - 1:30 PM: Rural Communities Luncheon with David Leckey, Executive Director of the Orton Family Foundation.Simp McGhee's, 725 Bank Street  

Session Description: The Orton Family Foundation is focused on building stronger, healthier, and more economically vibrant small cities and towns across America. Founded in Vermont in 1995, the foundation devoted more than a decade to working with towns to develop a community development model that empowers residents to shape the future of their communities. Community Heart & Soul® projects are underway across the country creating positive change that is resident-driven, recognizes the value in the unique character of each place, and the deep emotional connection of the people who live there. This session will explore the rich set of tools to create conversations, involve people who may not otherwise be involved, and delve deep into what makes each place special.*Separate Ticket Required - Limited Seating

1:00 PM – 2:00 PM: Conference Registration Open Princess Theater, 112 2nd Ave NE


New! 2:00 PM – 3:30 PM: Ideas in Action with Main Street Alabama Directors, Princess Theater, 112 2nd Ave NE

Main Street Alabama Directors share their experiences in each of the Four Points that resulted in downtown success:

  • Economic Vitality: Arts & Entertainment Districts Economic Impact with Rick Paler, Decatur Downtown Redevelopment Authority
  • Promotion: Small Business Saturday with Bekah Schmidt, South Huntsville Main Business Association
  • Design: Upper Floor Development and Local Incentives, Kay Moore, Downtown Gadsden Inc
  • Organization: Public Relations and Relationship Building with Mike Putman, Jasper Main Street  

3:30 PM - 4:00 PM: Conference Welcome


4:00 PM - 5:00 PM: Opening Plenary with Charles Marohn, Founder and President of Strong Towns: Curbside Chat.  Princess Theatre112 2nd Ave NE *Included with conference registration or separate ticket available

Session Description: During the Curbside Chat, gain understanding of how many American cities have found themselves in decline after decades of “growth” and learn a revolutionary way forward that could create enduring prosperity with these three core concepts: Continuous building (“growth”) is not the measure of a successful town; When planning for our cities’ futures, we need to look to the history of how resilient cities have been successfully built for centuries; And any citizen can participate in making their town stronger, and no town will truly be made stronger without building a culture of people who care. 

Social! 5:15 PM - 7:00 PM: Downtown on Tap hosted by Downtown Decatur Redevelopment Authority. Enjoy beer and bites with conference attendees at the Crossed-Eyed Owl Brewing Company, 105 1st Ave NE *No fee to attend but registration is required. 

Thursday, August 22, 2019

8:00 AM – 8:30 AM: Conference Registration and Coffee, Magnolia Room, 216 Moulton St E

8:30 AM – 10:00 AM: General Session with Charles Marohn, Founder and President of Strong Towns: Neighborhoods First. Magnolia Room, 216 Moulton St E

Session Description: Risky, low returning projects too often become expensive boondoggles that haunt a community for decades. Public officials everywhere are desperately seeking an alternative. This talk will cover the "Neighborhoods First" approach to show how a community can grow stronger by making small, incremental investments over time. By observing how neighbors live their lives, by asking them where their daily struggles are, by getting out on the street and discovering what is actually going on, any local government can discern what their community’s pressing needs are. These projects are the high return investments and they are all around us. Presented by Goodwyn Mills Cawood

10:30 AM – 12:00 NOON: General Session with Mike Jackson, FAIA, Illinois Historic Preservation and Dennis Madson, AICP, Manager of Urban & Long-Range Planning, City of HuntsvilleCodes and Historic Buildings- Working Together, Magnolia Room, 216 Moulton St E

Session Description: Adapting Building Codes, Zoning Regulations and other Requirements to fit the realities of Historic Downtowns and Neighborhood Commercial Districts. How can code officials use their discretionary powers when dealing with unique, historic properties? Hear about communities that are doing creative interpretations of the code as it relates to historic preservation for a win/win for development and preservation.

12:00 NOON – 1:30 PM: Urban Luncheon with International Downtown Association's David Downey. Simp McGhee's, 333 East Broad Street *Separate Ticket Required - Limited Seating

Session Description: The International Downtown Association is a world leader and champion for vital and livable urban centers. Through its network of diverse practitioners, its rich body of knowledge, and its unique capacity to nurture community-building partnerships, IDA provides tools, intelligence and strategies for creating healthy and dynamic centers that anchor the well-being of towns, cities and regions of the world. Discussion will include addressing homelessness and clean and safe issues.


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

1:30 PM – 2:45 PM: General Session with Kathy LaPlante: Retaining Leaders, Magnolia Room, 333 East Broad Street 

Session Description: Changeover in staff can be costly for an organization: in the loss of partners and funder relationships, institutional knowledge and momentum in project implementation and program management. Recruiting and keeping effective board members is also critical for a downtown organization to thrive. This session will identify some reasons for executive director turnover and will offer ideas and actions for boards to take to secure longevity in staff, as well as provide ideas to keep board members engaged and active.

3:00 PM – 3:30 PM: Lab Talk with Jim Purcell: At the Intersection of Education and Economic Development in Alabama.  Magnolia Room, 333 East Broad Street 

Session Description: The revitalization of Alabama’s communities requires the availability of a workforce skilled and credentialed for the jobs needed in the modern economy.  The current situation throughout Alabama is reviewed and recommendations are made that could assist communities in controlling their own destiny.

3:30 PM – 4:00 PM: Lab Talk with Elba Mayor Micky Murdock and Main Street Elba's Sandy Bynum: How Did They Do That?: Magnolia Room, 333 East Broad Street 

Session Description: Elba was recently awarded a $450,000 Community Development Block Grant for Downtown Revitalization.  Community leaders can use this program to rehabilitate blighted downtown buildings. The program is funded through the federal Community Development Block Grant program. The goal of this program is to provide economic opportunities for people, especially those of low-and moderate income. Hear from Mayor Mickey Murdock, Chamber/Main Street Director Sandy Bynum and Jim Byard of Byard & Associates on how they applied for the funds and their plans for implementation.

4:00 PM – 4:30 PM: Lab Talk with Chris Roquemore, Communications Assistant Manager, AIDT: Getting Your Community Film Ready,  Magnolia Room, 333 East Broad Street 

Session Description: Work with Hollywood and the New York film industry to develop camera-ready towns to meet the needs of movie and TV producers. As a result of preparation and promotion, Nicholas Cage, Bruce Willis, and Liam Hemsworth have repeatedly filmed in south Alabama. How do you conduct municipal and community relations to prepare towns for their close up? Find out!

6:15 PM: A Toast to Excellence, Join Regions Bank and raise a glass to celebrate the best projects on Alabama's Main Streets. Cook's Museum Patio, 133 4th Ave NE *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 program. Cook's Museum Ballroom, 133 4th Ave NE *Separate ticket required - Limited Seating

Friday, August 24, 2019 

8:00 AM - Registration and Breakfast, Alabama Center for the Arts Recital Hall, 133 2nd Ave NE

8:30 AM - 11:15 AM: Lab Talks covering topics of interest from funding mechanisms to trails and everything in between. Alabama Center for the Arts Recital Hall, 133 2nd Ave NE

How to Fund Your Organization, Kathy LaPlante: Is your organization tapping into every possible funding source? This fast-paced session will cover all aspects of income streams for downtown revitalization efforts, laying it out in a simple, yet necessary plan. Planning strategies for municipal support (new and continuing), annual campaigns, sponsorships, special projects income, promotional income, grants, merchandise sales and fundraising events will be provided.  

Country Comes To Town, AlfaDowntown and farm ground may seem like polar opposites, but there are plenty of ways to successfully incorporate agriculture into your revitalization efforts. “Simply Southern TV” host Mary Johns shares examples of stories the crew has covered where city folk and farmers work together to bring agriculture into the heart of town.

Public Art &Trails:  Find out how trails and public art can impact your district.  From the Tulotoma Snail Trail in Wetumpka, the Pinhoti NRT Trailhead Heflin Spur to the Literary Capital Sculpture Trail in Monroeville – we got you covered!  Executive Directors;  Jenny Stubbs, Wetumpka Main Street, Tanya Maloney, Heflin Main Street and Anne Marie Bryan, Monroeville Main Street 

11:15 AM - 11:30 AM: Conference Closing

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

 Please select No Conference Registration, Special Events Only






Our Main Streets tell us who we are, who we were and how the past has shaped us.