by Kyla Hurt
Photos / ElCrow
The 2021 Illinois Main Street Conference was held in Jacksonville from November 3-5; Jacksonville was the location of the conference because Jacksonville Main Street (JMS) received the 2012 Great American Main Street Award from Main Street America.
The conference welcomes others statewide as a chance for those involved with historic commercial districts to engage in conversations and learn from each other and experts in the field. According to Illinois Main Street, they welcome “other local economic development leaders and community members to join and learn more about downtown and commercial district revitalization.’
Jacksonville Main Street Executive Director Judy Tighe spoke on behalf of the organization, saying, “Jacksonville Main Street was thrilled to finally be selected to host this conference, especially after not having one in person for a variety of reasons since 2015. More than 80 people took part in the 22 learning sessions offered, plus the entertainment and shopping opportunities were provided. It was great seeing so many people patronizing our downtown businesses … [it was great] being able to show off the hard work that they and property owners have done to so many people who truly appreciate the efforts because many struggle with similar challenges that Jacksonville has faced in our downtown revitalization journey. The positive feedback was tremendous, and I think we have set a pretty high standard for the next host community to follow!”
The conference schedule was as follows, explains Illinois Main Street. “The conference kicks off Wednesday, November 3, with an evening welcome reception and networking, with special guest Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton. On Thursday, November 4, Lt. Governor Stratton moderated an opening panel along with Main Street America’s VP of Revitalization Services, Norma Ramírez de Miess. The leuteniant governor also celebrated Illinois Main Street successes by presenting the Lt. Governor Revitalization Recognition to several communities. Following that was a full day of education sessions. On Friday, November 4, attendees participated in a half day of sessions and a closing luncheon with guest speaker Kennedy Smith, Principal of Community Land Use + Economics Group.”
“We had just over 100 attendees, which included speakers and volunteers, and there were 34 communities represented, including someone from Cedar Rapids, Iowa. We were also joined by the DCEO deputy director and 3 regional directors, as well as the Lt. Governor and her team, who spent the afternoon and early evening supporting the conference and Jacksonville businesses,” notes Tighe.
Tighe expresses meaningfully, “Thank you to all the volunteers, businesses and participants who made this such a memorable event!”