Wednesday, June 07, 2006

News From New Orleans

The National Main Street Conference is in New Orleans this week. Norma Miess and Jennifer Benson are representing Elgin and have these thoughts to share.

French Quarter is Open!!!
If there was only one idea I could convey and get across to the readers of this blog about the status of the French Quarter in New Orleans is that it's open and waiting for ya'll to visit and enjoy. Though touched by Hurricane Katrina last August, it did not have flood damage but only wind damage. Nine months of clean-up and repair in this area have left only some buildings in disrepair as far as some roofs, windows, and trees damaged and new trees being planted. After talking to three different business they all mentioned that businesses that aren't open because the tourists are not here. With tourists believing the general hype that there is nothing open and that everything here is flattened and destroyed. The French Quarter still has most of the vibrancy that I remember from when I was here in 2003. So don't postpone your plans in coming to the Big Easy!!!

National Main Street Conference
With 1200 attendees, not counting all of the LA staff, National Trust staff and speakers, this conference has been successful in staying with New Orleans as it's host city through all of the tragedy. Though a main reason for attending conferences is the sessions, there is also the award ceremony, the opening and closing programs, tours, clean-ups, networking and the Main Street Expo. Along with fellow Illinois Main Street executive directors (Antioch, Waukegan, Libertyville and others), we were able to network with programs from Iowa, Indiana, Oklahoma, Maine and National, State and Preservation agencies. At the Expo we ran into streetscape vendors of light poles, street furniture, banners and holiday decorations.

The Opening Reception was held at Jackson Square, a beautiful historical city park right in the heart of the French Quarter. A great chance to enjoy networking with the attendees from around the country.

Highlights at the Opening Session included a national trends survey naming 5 top challenges for Downtown revitalization organizations:
  • Small business survival
  • Funds
  • Development issues
  • Competition for volunteers
  • Rebuilding infrastructure
Other emerging trends affecting the revitalization field are the shifting concept of "community", diversifying demographics, and the lack of novelty or excitement.

Mitchell J. Landrieu, Lt. Governor of Louisiana reported on the relief efforts and the need for his office to address the effort with reduced staff.

Some of the sessions we participated in are:
* Asset-based Economic Development - Heritage tourism
* Preserving and Promoting a Sense of Place
* Effective Downtown Marketing through the Web
* Developing and Effective Pledge Campaign
* Target Markets & Events Calendar Development

Photos and more reports will be posted upon Norma and Jennifer's return.

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