Thursday, August 20, 2020

Downtown Programs Rise to the Challenge

By Jenny Boulware, Main Street SC Manager 

Experts have told us that we should continue to plan for frequent interruptions and modifications to business operations from the pandemic. Is your leadership and economic development team ready to help ensure a healthy community as we enter the fall and winter season? The time is now to make changes to adapt and ensure that South Carolina’s local economies remain resilient.

For innovative, adaptive ideas, we are highlighting two of Main Street South Carolina’s communities: Main Street Hartsville and See Lancaster. Each has creatively assisted their small businesses with real solutions to stressed economies. 

By tapping into public and private support, the Hartsville community developed a micro-loan program known as the All-America City Comeback Campaign that assisted 38 businesses and provided more than $150,000 in direct assistance. 

Lancaster used a gift card program to infuse more than $50,000 into its downtown businesses. All 170 city employees were given a $300 gift card redeemable at local businesses that opted to participate. This program was so impactful that it will return during the holiday season in the form of $100 gift cards for all city employees. 

In the past several months, event cancellations have been a constant, but we have also seen new ways of hosting events. One resourceful modification to meet social distancing measures is drive-in movie nights. This public gathering variation got a positive reception from Lancaster residents. Additionally, local event sponsors have allowed cancelled event monies to be used for new programming as seen in Hartsville with their just-launched discounted gift certificate. 

When canceling or modifying planned activities, constant communication is a must. In fact, with limited community interactions at the moment, communicating positive messages is important. Hartsville and Lancaster have seen increased engagement on social media posts (See some of Hartsville’s efforts here and Lancaster’s here) that celebrate building renovations, business expansions and public projects. Increased awareness of these positive activities cultivate excitement and hope for the future. 

We talked about these practical solutions with the leaders of these two programs — Suzy Moyd in Hartsville and Joe Timmons in Lancaster — in a recent episode of the City Quick Connect podcast. These are two fantastic program directors and they’re doing amazing work in their communities.

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Log on for the 2020 Virtual Regional Advocacy Meetings

Why should you virtually attend the Regional Advocacy Meetings this year?

By Casey Fields, Manager for Municipal Advocacy 

Municipal Association legislative staff started traveling around the state every fall for advocacy meetings in 2006. In fact, when I started at the Association in October 2006, it was one of the first things I did — I went to Conway for a regional advocacy meeting. Over the last 14 years, we’ve made some changes and seen some new faces, but the message has remained the same: we are a team, and we work together to represent municipal interests at the State House. 

This year will be a little different. Falling in line with a lot of firsts in 2020, this is the first year the Regional Advocacy Meetings are virtual, and will take place from August 18 to September 9, all at 11 a.m. In years past, we’ve had to cancel a meeting or two because of hurricanes, but we have never moved all of them to a virtual platform. 

I know what you’re thinking: not another one of these. We’ve all got some virtual meeting fatigue at this point, but this one is going to be valuable and I’m here to tell you why. 

First, it’s going to be quick – one hour, no drive time. You can mute yourself and just listen to the information. You can offer your suggestions through email before or after, or participate live during the meeting. 

Second, you can meet the new members of the legislative team, Erica Wright and Joannie Nickel. Both of these women bring a multitude of experience in legislative politics, local government and economic development. You will love them like we already do. 

Third, we are packing A LOT of information into the one hour. State and federal funding updates, election updates, legislative updates and more … all from the comfort of your home or office. You will hear information about the upcoming September legislative session and discuss potential topics for the new 2021 session beginning in January. 

We will talk about H4431, the business license billthat’s still up for consideration in the September session. We will talk about additional COVID-19 federal funding for cities and towns, absentee ballots for the November election and what changes have already taken place from the June primaries to change the committee structure in both the House and Senate. We will discuss major issues looming for the new 2021 legislative session beginning in January and the state budget that lawmakers will be debating in September. 

I told you it was a lot. Why participate? Why listen in? Why register? Because you are an important member of the team and we are all counting on you to be a loud, strong and knowledgeable advocate for cities and towns. This is your chance to be in the know and to get the information straight from us. 

You would think that I get a commission based on the amount of people that sign up for Regional Advocacy Meeting. I don’t. I just really love it when our municipal team comes together to talk about working for the future of our cities and towns. And I love to see your faces. Even if only on a screen. 

Do I wish we were traveling to a location near you and sharing a hug and a meal together? Absolutely. Just because we can’t meet in person, it is still just as important to gather together on a screen and share thoughts as we look to the future of cities and towns. Hopefully, next year I will see you in person, hug you and enjoy a sweet tea. 

Register for the Virtual Regional Advocacy Meetings here. You can sign up for the one for your council of governments area or for any of the others.