Originally appeared on Business.com.
As a small business owner, you take big risks and face even bigger competition, but you don't have to do it alone. Main Street organizations, including small business associations, downtown improvement districts and Local First programs all support small businesses with everything from promotional resources to networking opportunities. They're often led by small business owners themselves, putting the organization in the best position to support your business. If you haven't joined your local Main Street organization, you could be missing out on a key strategy for success.
Here are five reasons why joining such an organization is so important.
1. Strength in numbers
Local Main Street organizations help connect you with other small businesses in the community. Through those connections, you can brainstorm new ideas, cover more ground with campaigns and get more people talking about your business. Whether you want to solve a problem within your store or introduce a new initiative to the entire community, the local Main Street organization will give you strength in numbers. It's a way to make your small business feel just a little bigger.
2. Proven results
Across the U.S., Main Street organizations have reinvested more than $70 billion since 1980, according to the National Main Street Center. They've also generated more than half a million jobs, rehabilitated more than 268,000 downtown buildings and added more than 132,000 businesses to the economy. In fact, for every dollar a community spends on its Main Street program, the National Main Street Center estimates $32.56 in new local investment occurs. Simply put, the Main Street model works.
The success of Main Street organizations is more than numbers. Behind each organization are the small business-revitalized communities that have been able to flourish as a result of the coalition’s work. Main Street organizations make sure downtown areas are filled with growing businesses, well-lit streets and seasonal events.
3. Valuable resources
The long-term results of Main Street organizations speak for themselves, but membership also provides a return on investment in the short term. Main Street organizations typically offer their members promotional opportunities, such as a free listing in the organization’s small business directory, social media shout-outs and e-newsletter features. The organization may also have branded collateral that members can use to identify themselves in the community. A “buy local” business card or Main Street window cling can help create name recognition for your business by aligning it with a local movement.
Aside from promotional resources, your local Main Street organization may offer special programs for business services. Some Main Street groups work closely with local banks, accounting firms or insurance providers to offer members discounted services or flexible financing. These programs can help your business save money and work more efficiently. Check with your local Main Street organization to find out what benefits are available to your small business.
4. Community leadership
Is there a change you'd like to make to your community? A policy you'd like to see implemented? A tax you'd like to see lowered? If you have a vision for the community, your local Main Street organization can help you advocate for it. The members of Main Street organizations aren't just small business owners – they're also your community's leaders.
For example, the Austin Independent Business Alliance (AIBA) successfully advocated for $500,000 in public funding for last year for local business marketing and programming. After working with other local organizations to support the initiative, AIBA members spoke directly to the Austin City Council ahead of its vote on the funding. The council voted unanimously to fund local business marketing and programming with an existing hotel occupancy tax.
5. Local pride
Main Street organizations reflect the investment small business owners make in the community. They demonstrate the pride and enthusiasm local leaders have toward the neighborhood, village or city. Perhaps most importantly, they also work to spread that local pride throughout the entire community.
From holiday parades to weekly farmers markets, Main Street organizations make your community a fun place to live. They get residents excited about the downtown district and all it has to offer, make improvements to the ambiance, host events that draw people to the heart of the community, and create traditions to attract visitors from other parts of the state or country. In these ways, Main Street groups make your community something to be proud of. And where there's community pride, there's sure to be an abundance of support for small businesses.
Whether your business sits on Main Street, First Street or Cedar Avenue, there's a Main Street group for you. To get connected, check with your local chamber of commerce or consult your city government's website for information about the local Main Street program. You can also search the American Independent Business Alliance, the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies or the National Main Street Center to see if there's an affiliated program near you. Independent We Stand is also a great resource.