On Feb. 25, the Mississippi Main Street Association (MMSA) designated the City of Moss Point as a Mississippi Main Street Member Community. It is the seventh Coast community to join the Main Street program.
However, MMSA is hoping its number of communities will take off in 2009 as the organization unveiled new membership levels last December. MMSA executive director Bob Wilson said the retooling is aimed at giving smaller communities an opportunity to participate in the association’s program. This is especially important considering the economy.
“Communities with a population of less than 5,000 people often do not have the resources to meet the program’s requirements,” Wilson said. “Communities must attend workshops, go through the selection process, hire a manager. It is a long and somewhat expensive process.”
Wilson added that the economic woes have made it even more difficult for communities to meet the program’s requirements. Most communities’ efforts are supported by the city government and local merchants. With sales tax collections dwindling, local governments are suffering. And, retailers are certainly feeling the pinch.
Thus, MMSA now has four different membership levels. These are Friends of Main Street, Association Members, Mississippi Downtown Network Members and Main Street Members.
The Friends of Main Street membership is reserved for individuals, corporations and other not-for-profit associations that support the work and mission of MMSA. Members receive limited services but are invited to receive phone consultation from MMSA staff, subscription to the MMSA E-newsletter, invitation to the MMSA Annual Awards Luncheon and reduced registration fees to regularly scheduled training and educational meetings and workshops. The annual fee is $100.
The Association Membership level replaces the former Municipal Membership. This membership provides a range of services and assistance to meet a variety of community development and readiness levels. It is for communities that are either just starting a downtown revitalization effort or those that do not wish to become a designated Main Street community or a Mississippi Downtown Network Member. Communities may also take advantage of additional training opportunities by purchasing services from the MMSA menu of services at a discounted rate. The annual fee is $250.
The Mississippi Downtown Network Member is a new offering. It provides a variety of learning opportunities to stakeholders with a role in the preservation and revitalization of Mississippi’s historic resources. Communities may or may not have a paid staff member (a local program coordinator is required) or board of directors that guides their activities, but are interested in improving the economic vitality of their downtowns. The package allows for greater levels of consultation and technical assistance with the MMSA staff than the Association Membership. Communities may also take advantage of additional training opportunities that may not be included in the network membership package by purchasing services from the MMSA menu of services at a discounted rate. The annual fee is $1,000.
The Main Street Membership is the most comprehensive package offered. It is only offered to currently designated Main Street Communities or those invited to participate in the MMSA annual Application Workshop and selection process. Communities may also take advantage of additional training opportunities that may not be included in the membership package by purchasing services at a discounted rate. Many of the services listed are provided with the Main Street Membership. The annual fee is $10,000 the first year, $6,000 the second year, $4,000 the third year and $2,000 annually thereafter. Designated Main Street Communities receive a minimum of $25,000 in technical assistance during the first year in the program.
This is the only membership level that authorizes a community the use of the Main Street trademarked name and Mississippi Main Street logo. It is also the only membership level that has exclusive rights to Mississippi Main Street logo/road sign usage provided by the Mississippi Department of Transportation.
Wilson said MMSA has been pleased with the early response to the new membership levels. He said the group was somewhat concerned that it would be inundated with communities it could not serve. So far, that has not been the case.
Other happenings are also encouraging. MMSA is seeing larger attendance at its workshops and meetings, a sign that communities are fully “buying into” the program. In addition, the MMSA has added district directors, who work closely with communities and have added to the program’s effectiveness.
Contact MBJ staff writer Wally Northway at email@example.com.