National Spotlight on Georgia Main Street Programs

Via the National Main Street Center: From the Athens Art Alley to Tybee Island’s Beach Business Bootcamp, Georgia Main Street communities have been creating and reinforcing downtown recovery through the support of the Georgia Main Street Innovation Grant Program, made possible through generous support from The Williams Family Foundation of Georgia. This program provided five Georgia Main Street Program communities $10,000 each last fall to help fund innovative revitalization efforts to address the current and/or legacy impacts of COVID-19.

A year after receiving their grants, we caught up with the five grant recipients—Downtown Athens, GeorgiaCity of TiftonDowntown Thomasville, GeorgiaTybee Island Main Street, and Downtown Valdosta Main Street—to learn more about their creative and out-of-the-box ideas around COVID-recovery. In this week’s Community Spotlight, learn more about the winning ideas and their progress thus far:

The Georgia Main Street program announced Cartersville, Monroe and Athens will be added to the list of cities that hold the designation of a Georgia Exceptional Main Street (GEMS) community.

The staff of the Office of Downtown Development with the Georgia Department of Community Affairs attended the recent council meetings of each city to relay the mission of the Georgia Main Street program and the significance of the GEMS recognition.

GEMS cities represent some of the best Main Street Programs offered by the state. These Main Streets “have gone above and beyond expectations by making a strong and positive impact in their communities while utilizing the Main Street Approach,” according to Jessica Reynolds, the director of the Office of Downtown Development. Reynolds congratulated Cartersville, Monroe and Athens on their “commitment to excellence and stable leadership” that led to this designation. Over the past three years, each community has seen millions of dollars in private and public investment, with an emphasis on new businesses and job creation.

The additional GEMS communities are Acworth, Bainbridge, Brunswick, Columbus, Dahlonega, Dublin, Greensboro, Madison, Milledgeville, Moultrie, Newnan, Rome, Statesboro, Thomasville, Tifton, Toccoa and Valdosta.

As you maybe aware the virus Covid-19 has changed how we look at normal day to day business in the Main Street world. In our most recent webinar, we discussed how this will impact you as a local program along with recommendations and tips for helping keep the community calmed, informed and supported. During these moments of crisis we have already seen some great best practices happening around the state.

The Georgia Main Street program announced Acworth and Dublin are newly designated Georgia Exceptional Main Street communities (GEMS), joining only 15 other communities across the state that hold this accolade.

The staff of the Office of Downtown Development with the Georgia Department of Community Affairs attended the December council meetings of each city to relay the mission of the Georgia Main Street program and the significance of the GEMS recognition.

GEMS represent some of the best Main Street Programs offered by the state. These Main Streets “have gone above and beyond expectations by making a strong and positive impact in their communities,” according to Jessica Reynolds, the director of the Office of Downtown Development. Reynolds congratulated each community on the “commitment to excellence and stable leadership” that led to this designation. Over the past three years, each downtown has seen millions of dollars in private and public investment, with an emphasis on historic preservation, business development, and job creation.

The additional GEMS communities are Bainbridge, Brunswick, Columbus, Dahlonega, Greensboro, Madison, Milledgeville, Moultrie, Newnan, Rome, Statesboro, Thomasville, Tifton, Toccoa and Valdosta.

From the National Main Street Center: We’re thrilled to announce that applications are now open for the Future of Shopping Small Grant Program. American Express and Main Street America have teamed up to provide 10 small business owners $10K each to help their businesses innovate in the evolving retail landscape. The program is intended to support small businesses across the country that have demonstrated new approaches to traditional business strategies and those businesses looking to try out creative techniques, while also helping to revitalize and strengthen older and historic commercial districts. Grant recipients should demonstrate commitment to both their local community and principles described in American Express’ Future of Shopping Small guide. The deadline to apply is March 31, 2020.

Click here to apply online.

From learning on the go to Main Street 201 deep dives 2020’s Training Calendar has a little bit of something for everyone! Check out the links below for registration details, agendas and the cost for each workshop.

Mobilize Main Street:

Leadership Summit

Main Street 201: Strategic Planning Workshop


Want to learn more? Check out our online webinar about the 2020 Training Calendar:


It’s the most wonderful time of the year! It’s almost Small Business Saturday — the annual holiday shopping tradition that gets communities everywhere out in support of their favorite small businesses. Held on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, and founded by American Express in 2010, Small Business Saturday will fall on Nov. 30th this year. Click here to visit the Shop Small Studio to receive downloadable materials, how-to videos and more.

To help get the word out, we created this video as a resource for our Georgia Main Street communities during the Shop Small season. When sharing, please don’t forget to use the hashtags #shopsmall and #gamainst as well as tagging our Facebook and Instagram handle (@gamainst). Happy shopping!

The Office of Downtown Development is excited to announce the addition of Matthew Dean to our team as Community Design Specialist. Matthew studied landscape architecture at UGA’s College of Environment & Design while working for DCA as a graduate assistant where he developed an interest in urban design. Currently, he and his wife, Maddison, reside in Commerce, GA.

We are also excited to announce the addition of Tara Bradshaw as Economic Development Specialist. Tara served as Main Street Dublin Director from 2012 to 2017 and was appointed Executive Director of Dublin DDA in February 2017. During her tenure, Dublin saw 19.6 million in private/public investment with the creation of 160+ new jobs. Tara will continue to live in Dublin with her husband Matthew and are devoted to creating a place their two young children, Maggie Claire and Lane, will be proud to call home.

The ​Office ​of ​Downtown ​Development ​is ​excited ​to ​be ​bringing ​you ​a ​variety ​of ​new ​training ​opportunities ​in ​2019. ​The ​workshops ​offered ​will ​include ​but ​are ​not ​limited ​to:


Mini ​Main ​Street ​201- ​”Beers, ​Brews ​and ​Business ​Development”

February ​26th ​in ​Greensboro, ​GA

Cost: ​$35 ​per ​person, ​all ​tiers


Mini ​Main ​Street ​201- ​”Conquering ​the ​Diversity ​Divide”

June ​11th ​in ​LaGrange- ​GA

Cost: ​$25 ​per ​person, ​all ​tiers


Annual ​Leadership ​Summit

July ​23 ​& ​24th ​in ​Valdosta, ​GA

Cost: ​$200 ​GEMS, ​$250 ​Classic ​and ​$275 ​Affiliate


Mini ​Main ​Street ​201- ​”Funding ​Main ​Street”

September ​17th ​in ​Brunswick, ​GA

Cost: ​$25 ​per ​person, ​all ​tiers


*When ​registering , ​if ​asked ​to ​enter ​an ​eligible ​discount ​code ​please ​use ​the ​code ​”GEMS” ​for ​GEMS ​designated ​cities ​and ​”Classic” ​for ​Classic ​Main ​Street ​designated ​cities. ​All ​Affiliate ​or ​all ​other ​non-designated ​registrants ​need ​not ​enter ​any ​additional ​information. ​

Register Here

Register today for Mobilize Main Street! Our brand new learning on-the-go tour will take place in Toccoa, Athens and Madison on May 15 & 16th. The cost is $300 for GEMS*, $350 for Classic Main Streets* and $375 for Affiliate* or Non-designated registrants. Cost includes one night stay at Hotel Indigo on the evening of May 15th, transportation to Toccoa & Madison from Athens and all meals for both days.

Register here

Main Street 101 is now live and online! Main Street 101 has been re-imagined as a completely online, interactive experience designed to walk you through the Main Street 4- Point Approach from start to finish.  Utilizing Prezi, a presentation software that uses motion, zoom, and spatial relationships to relay information, this interactive guide was developed by the Georgia Main Street Program Staff and is a complimentary resource available to all Georgia cities.  Here the fundamentals of the Main Street program have been broken down here in to a four part series providing you the viewer with videos, links and visual resources, to help you better retain the information presented.

Georgia Main Street: Leadership Summit
Tuesday, June 12, 2018 9:00 AM – Wednesday, June 13, 2018 3:30 PM (Eastern Time)
Downtown LaGrange Courtyard by Marriott

A ​Main ​Street ​Director. ​A ​board ​member. ​An ​elected ​official. ​A ​volunteer ​coordinator. ​A ​parent. ​Whether ​you’re ​one ​of ​these ​things ​or ​all ​of ​these ​things, ​one ​thing ​remains ​true: ​You ​are ​a ​leader. But ​where ​are ​you ​on ​your ​leadership ​journey, ​and ​where ​do ​you ​go ​from ​here? ​This ​question ​exists ​at ​the ​heart ​of ​so ​many ​leaders. ​Everyone ​wants ​to ​know ​where ​they ​stand ​and ​how ​to ​get ​to ​the ​next ​level. ​And ​you ​are ​probably ​no ​different! ​This ​is ​why ​John ​Maxwell ​developed ​the ​5 ​Levels ​of ​Leadership ​paradigm. ​

Certified ​to ​teach ​John ​Maxwell’s ​5 ​Levels ​of ​Leadership, ​here ​at ​the ​Office ​of ​Downtown ​Development ​is ​is ​our ​goal ​to ​help ​you, ​as ​a ​community ​leader, ​understand ​and ​increase ​your ​effectiveness. ​ ​Leadership ​is ​about ​growth ​– ​for ​yourself, ​your ​relationships, ​your ​productivity, ​and ​your ​people. ​To ​lead ​well, ​you ​must ​embrace ​your ​need ​for ​continual ​improvement, ​and ​the ​5 ​Levels ​provide ​a ​leadership ​GPS ​to ​help ​you ​with ​your ​journey. ​You ​must ​know ​where ​you ​are, ​to ​know ​where ​you’re ​going. Otherwise, ​as ​the ​Cheshire ​Cat ​told ​Alice, ​when ​you ​don’t ​know ​where ​you’re ​going, ​any ​road ​will ​get ​you ​there.

The ​cost ​to ​attend ​this ​workshop ​is ​$300. ​These ​fees ​will ​go ​to ​cover ​the ​cost ​of ​the ​space ​rental, ​breakfast, ​breakout ​session ​snacks ​and ​the ​5 ​Levels ​of ​Leadership ​classroom ​materials. ​The ​materials ​alone ​retail ​at ​$199.00. ​

When ​registering ​​please ​enter ​your ​communities ​designation ​level ​to ​view ​applicable ​discount ​rates:
Affiliate- ​$25 ​dollar ​discount
Classic- ​$50 ​dollar ​discount
GEMS- ​$100 ​dollar ​discount ​

The Georgia Main Street Program has created a New Manager’s Handbook as a resource for both new manager’s and board members as they navigate their way through the world of Main Street. From strategic planning to historic preservation and from the four points to financial assistance this handbook will provide readers with an overview of how you too can utilize these resources to your community’s benefit.

Managers Handbook doc to image_Page_01Managers Handbook doc to image_Page_02

buy now

Vibrant Communities Grants are available from Georgia Council for the Arts.  These grants, available for up to $5,000, are for organizations in counties in which no one received a Project, Partner or Arts Education Grant from GCA earlier this year.  (A list of eligible counties is in the guidelines).  Local governments (cities, counties and local authorities), non-profits, schools, colleges and libraries are eligible to apply to support arts projects such as murals, performances, festivals, exhibits, etc.  Guidelines can be found here: 
Deadline is Aug. 31, 2017. 

Introduction to the Vibrant Communities Grant
The Georgia Legislature allocated funds to Georgia Council for the Arts specifically to increase the reach of arts grants across the state. These grants are intended to fund arts programs in as many counties as possible. Some examples of projects that could be funded by the Vibrant Communities grant are concerts, theatre productions, class fieldtrips, art exhibits, murals, art festivals, or art classes. Please note: The Vibrant Communities grant is a reimbursement grant. This means that if you are awarded the grant, you have to start spending money on the expenses and then request reimbursement. You will not receive the grant funds before you incur expenses.

Timeline for Vibrant Communities:
August 31, 2017-              Deadline for application
Late September, 2017-    Applicants are notified whether or not they received an award
October 15, 2017-             Grantees may begin working on projects
Mid-October, 2017-         Deadline for grantees to return grant contracts and required forms
Mid-Oct. 17′-May 18′-     Grantees may submit a Request for Reimbursement form
June 1, 2018-                    Project must be completed and Final Report is due.

For more information, contact Tina Lilly, GCA Grants Director at or

Do you have an outstanding volunteer, small business owner or board member that you’d like to recognize?  Have you completed a great project that you’d like to see recognized by other downtown professionals?  Nominations are now being accepted for the 2017 Georgia Downtown Awards Program. The purpose of these awards is to highlight, honor and promote the outstanding achievements of Georgia’s local downtown development and revitalizing organizations. The submission deadline is June 5th and winners will be recognized at a special reception and presentation on August 23, during the Georgia Downtown Conference in Columbus, Georgia.

June 5, 2017-  Nomination Deadline
May 1, 2017-  Nominations Open
July 7, 2017-  Finalists Notified of Results
August 23, 2017-  Awards Ceremony and Presentation at Georgia Downtown Conference

Awards recipients will be announced to the public at the Georgia Downtown Conference Awards Ceremony at the Springer Opera House in Columbus, Georgia on the afternoon of August 23, 2017. Winners of cash awards categories will also receive a check for $500 donated to the local downtown development organization for the purpose of continuing its efforts in revitalizing the downtown.

To be eligible for submitting a nomination, the organization must be a member of the Georgia Downtown Association. If your organization is not a member, but is interested in learning more about membership, call 678-686-6256, visit, or email

View Nomination Form

Don’t miss a chance to apply for a scholarship to attend the 2017 Main Street Now Conference in Pittsburgh, PA! 

In an effort to encourage continued growth and development of downtown revitalization programs throughout the state, the Georgia Downtown Association (GDA) will award TWO deserving downtown professionals with a registration and travel scholarship.  The scholarship will take the form of reimbursement for conference registration, airfare, and lodging costs associated with the trips, with a maximum reimbursement of $1,000.  Scholarship funds are made available by funds raised from the Silent Auction during the annual Georgia Downtown Conference.  Applications must be received electronically by GDA no later than March 1, 2017.  Apply Now! 

Join us on January 24, 2017 at 10:00 am for a special webinar presentation by Laurie Rowe and Rebecca Shirley on Public Relations on Main Street: Tourism, Lifestyle & Economic Development Media Outreach.

In this seminar, Laurie and Rebecca will offer insights and tools needed for a successful PR and Media Relations program. From the conceptualization of story ideas and editorial content to developing effective pitching skills and reporting published results, you’ll learn to garner valuable media coverage for your downtown shops, restaurants and businesses, as well as festivals and special events.

Laurie Rowe
Over the past 25 years, Laurie has held senior-level management positions in hotels, resort real estate sales and destination marketing organizations, including four years as a director of sales for the State of Georgia’s tourism division. In 2006, Laurie created Laurie Rowe Communications, Inc. (LRC), to put her skills and experience, as well as her extensive network of industry experts, to work for tourism organizations of all sizes and budgets. Laurie has served on the board of directors for numerous industry associations and was honored at the 2013 Georgia Governor’s Tourism Conference with the Larry Allen Tourism Leadership Award, recognizing an individual who demonstrates excellence in leadership skills and abilities.

Rebecca Shirley
Rebecca is currently the Director of the Dahlonega DDA and Vice President of the Georgia Downtown Association. She has been working in at the intersection of the public and private sectors since 2007 and has had the opportunity to work on a variety of economic development, marketing, social media and public relations projects – most recently with Dahlonega being awarded as a Great American Main Street City.


Main Street 201: Investment Priorities for Georgia’s Small Towns and Main Streets

In 2016 the Office of Downtown Development introduced a new track of educational workshops titled Main Street 201. The idea behind Main Street 201 was to give existing Main Street Managers, Staff and Board Members educational opportunities that provide a deeper dive, or a specific focus, beyond what is taught in Main Street 101.  While our Main Street 101 topics and agenda will stay similar from year to year, our Main Street 201 topics will change.  In 2017 we will be hosting one Main Street 201 workshop in Athens, GA. This event will be held in conjunction with our Main Street 101 workshop so that new managers or board members that wish to attend both events can do so in one location (keep in mind that a separate registration is required for both workshops).

In partnering with the Georgia Conservancy, and DCA’s Office of Planning and Environmental Management, our 2017 Main Street 201 workshop will focus on “Investment Priorities for Georgia’s Small Towns and Main Streets” along with ideas and concepts that will help your community plan for success. Next year’s workshop will include components that are both presentation and hands-on activity focused.  In the morning sessions the Georgia Conservancy will illustrate for attendees how the research of 65 Georgia small towns revealed 7 major design and planning fundamentals, common to the thriving towns’ strengths.

In the afternoon DCA’s Office of Planning and Environmental Management, will discuss what the local Main Street Program’s role is in the creation and implementation of each community’s local comp plan development. During this session presenters will explore how local programs can work to integrate individual components of their community’s comp plan into their own downtown strategic plan and the value that good planning can play in your downtown’s success.

Seating is limited. Reserve your seat today!
Click here to view the full agenda

Explore Georgia is now accepting nominations for the 2017 list of 100 Plates Locals Love and we need your help to ensure that our Main Street communities’ favorite local dishes are represented. Nominations for your favorite local flavor will be collected online in October and evaluated by a panel of judges, who will select the final list of 100 Plates Locals Love.  The list will be published in 2017 on the Explore Georgia website and in the official Georgia Eats Culinary Guide, available next spring. Please be aware that nominations for your favorite local dish are not considered as votes. Individuals can submit several nominations, but multiple nominations of the same dish will not guarantee a place on the final list.

To see what made the list in 2016, check out Explore Georgia’s list of 100 Plates Locals Love, and follow Explore Georgia’s 10 Flavor Tours to the state’s standout restaurants for barbecue, seafood, desserts and more. Order a copy of the current Georgia Eats Culinary Guide, browse the Explore Georgia Dining page, and follow Culinary Explorer Jennifer Hill Booker for more trip ideas and delicious destinations.

Nominate your favorite plate using the following link!