In April five selected individuals from Milford were chosen to represent Downtown Milford Inc. and Delaware Main Street at the National Main Streets Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana. Along with those from Milford were Drs. Mitchell and Loretta Edmondson, Anne Jenkins, Lee Nelson and Bryan Shupe. Eight designated Main Street programs from around the state of Delaware were represented in New Orleans by fifteen individuals.
“The annual National Main Street Conference provides town representatives with an opportunity to learn from topic experts and peers from around the nation, while also providing an exceptional networking opportunity with both in-state colleagues, and those from a host of other states and cities that are part of the Main Street network,” commented Delaware Economic Development Office (DEDO)officials Diane Laird.
Led by Delaware Economic Development Office officials Diane Laird, State Coordinator for Downtown Delaware, and Ken Anderson, Director of Entrepreneurial and Small Business Support, the representatives from Milford attended classroom sessions, crash courses and roundtables to discuss a myriad of topics including economic restructuring, collaborative partnerships between main streets and municipalites and creating entrepreneur ready communities. Director of Milford Downtown Inc. (DMI) Lee Nelson, shared that the conference was an experience that allowed the DMI Board Members and volunteers in attendance to evaluate Milford’s own downtown programs on a national level and observe new practices that could be helpful in implementing them back home.
“[The conference] enabled us to gauge our own downtown mainstream programs and evaluate our overall strengths and weaknesses,” commented Nelson. “We can tend to focus on the day-to-day operations and do not take the time to step back and look at the program from the outside. With over 2,000 national mainstream individuals in attendance there were plenty of opportunities to network with other main street members from around the country.” Nelson added that after talking with other main street programs about their organizations, he is very encouraged that Downtown Milford Inc. is doing a great job with their mission of promoting, revitalizing and beatifying downtown Milford.
Owners of the local downtown business Fur-Baby Boutique were asked to speak at the National Main Streets Conference during a DEDO led presentation on “Winning Strategies in Today’s Global Economy…Entrepreneurism, Technology, Innovation.” Owner Sherry Shaffer was featured in a video, created by the Delaware Economic Development Office, talking about how to differentiate small businesses from big-box stores through specialized products, personalized services and unique events. In attendance at the conference, owner Bryan Shupe, spoke about using technology and innovation to grow small businesses in the local marketplace.
“We were honored to be asked to speak at the National Main Streets Conference in New Orleans by the Delaware Economic Development Office,” stated Shaffer. “It allowed us to step back and take a look at exactly how we have been successful at competing against big-box stores in our area. It was a lot of fun sharing our boutique with other small business owners from around the country.”
Now back in Delaware, the individuals from Downtown Milford Inc. and Downtown Delaware look forward to implementing some of the best downtown practices from around the country.
“Attendees always come away jazzed with new ideas, tools, and enthusiasm to do the challenging, but very fulfilling work of downtown revitalization.” Diane also gave special thanks to USDA Rural Development for supporting the training opportunity. Next year’s National Main Streets Conference will be held in Detroit, Michigan.