by Jay Schlinsog, Downtown Professionals Network and Reopen Main Street
If we dwelled on the chaos, confusion, hurts, losses, and all the other twists and turns we’ve each experienced in the COVID-19 era, now measured at more than 600 days, it could be viewed as perhaps the most distressing periods many of us have spent on this earth. But Main Street has shown us something else – something that, even in the darkest depths of the abyss that is COVID, is fueling new ways of thinking, acting, and achieving. It is the power of Main Street on full display.
The Main Street Alabama 2021 LAB in Gadsden brought the power of Main Street to the forefront. It highlighted some of the ways Main Street and community partners are working together like never before to help support businesses, it showcased small business owners who are defying the odds, and it shined the spotlight on the burgeoning entrepreneur movement that is bringing new faces, talent, ideas, and energy to our districts.
A “license to experiment” approach is reshaping the way we think about and use public spaces, and initiatives that place a higher priority on the pedestrian and human activity in the public realm are literally changing the function, look and feel of our districts. Local government, Main Street, and other community economic development partners are working together in new and different ways, and a heightened spirit of teamwork is driving changes – positive changes – that will outlive the virus.
The magic that is Main Street – you, and fellow volunteers, leaders, partners, and advocates working together – is what inspires hope and confidence as we move ahead. It’s your efforts, your unbridled energy, and your commitment to the cause that have inspired me on this journey, like it has undoubtedly inspired many in your own community. It’s also one of the big reasons I can say, unequivocally, I have never been more excited about the future of Main Street.
Like you, I want the illness, separation, misery, strife, pain, and loss – and all the afflictions that have come with the ebbs and flows of life as we’ve lived it during the COVID-19 pandemic – to be over. But as we contemplate what the new normal looks like and how we’ll navigate the path forward, let’s hang on to this renewed sense of adventure, experimentation, and camaraderie to take our efforts to still greater heights, and to unleash the full power of Main Street.