Bringing Back Main Street Roundtables and Workshops

The Bringing Back Main Street initiative offers local communities a place to share best practices and engage in a regional dialogue about revitalizing and supporting vibrant downtown spaces. Each quarter, community leaders gather for a roundtable on topics ranging from small business support to sidewalk infrastructure.

Revitalization Roundtables and Summits

Date and Time

Tuesday, October 25, 2022
9:00 a.m. to Noon

Event Location

Hybrid - 3555 Timmons Lane, Houston, and on Zoom

The topic for the Rural and Small Town Downtown Revitalization Summit will be announced. Registration information will be available soon.

Past Roundtables and Summits

Participants met in Waller to hear from the City of Waller and the Waller Economic Development Corporation discussing the planning process and available resources they’re using to revitalize their downtown and attract developers to the community. New businesses in town and a developer provided additional insight. Presentations were followed by a walking tour of Main Street in Waller.

Participants met in El Campo to learn how cities can support new businesses and how entrepreneurs can market and grow their businesses. Presentations were followed by a walking tour of downtown El Campo. 

Participants explored Building Downtowns from Scratch with presenters discussing how to strategically plan for and implement downtown gathering spaces. Jeff Taebel, FAICP, Director of Community and Environmental Planning and H-GAC, and Rick Leisner, Principal at Norris Design,shared information about the benefits of building a downtown and strategies for getting started, followed by a robust audience-led discussion during an Ask the Expert Roundtable.

Participants heard about recent rural land sale trends during the COVID-19 pandemic and opportunities for rural places to maximize their open spaces and outdoor recreation amenities, including eco-tourism and trail-oriented development.

This roundtable explored how local food fuels the economy. Speakers from the City of Tomball, Tomball Farmers Market, and Food and Vine Time Productions discussed how farmers markets, food truck parks, and other food-focused events can bring communities together and generate economic development opportunities.

This round table topic was Designing Accessible Downtowns and included guidance and examples of how small towns and downtown organizations can integrate accessibility considerations into their work. To recognize Fair Housing Month in April, speakers also discussed fair housing and reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities.

Attendees learned about the Texas Department of Agriculture's Community Development Block Grant program for non-entitlement communities. The City of Hunstville and City of Eagle Lake shared success stories. 

H-GAC's second annual Rural and Small Town Downtown Revitalization Summit focused on Doing Business During COVID-19.

Downtowns thrive on engaged visitors, resilient businesses, and strategic planning for growth. This remains true during COVID-19, but how we get there may look a little different. There are many solutions to every challenge, but no magic formula, especially during a pandemic. However, experts and our neighbors have some ideas.

Participants looked at ways to reinvigorate downtowns during COVID-19 by attracting visitors, maintaining local businesses, and planning for new growth.

Participants learned about Remaining Economically Competitive.

Jillian Donatto, H-GAC Senior Planner, offered an overview of Wharton County and local economic development indicators, high level insights on impacts of recent economic shocks, and implications for the future of talent-led economic development. Courtney Sladek, El Campo City Manager, provided an economic snapshot of the City of El Campo, including job growth, key industries, economic development benchmarking, and how the city is poising itself for future growth.

Chad Odom, Wharton Economic Development Corporation Executive Director, discussed workforce housing as part of the business attraction, retention, and expansion model, including Wharton ISD housing initiatives. Todd Lang, International Economic Development Council Senior Economic Development Associate, explained how communities can access free technical assistance from the U.S. Economic Development Administration via the International Economic Development Council.

Agenda and Presentations

Participants learned How Small Cities Are Raising Development Standards for Future Growth. Theo Melancon, Dayton City Manager, discussed how leaders and residents can embrace change to ensure growth is controlled and meets the needs of the community. Jim Webb, Chief Executive Officer at The Goodman Corporation, discussed mobility planning and offered information on traditional and innovative funding sources. Jody Czajkoski, Conroe City Councilman, discussed inevitable growth and development codes the City of Conroe is implementing to prepare for it.

Presentations were followed by a robust discussion and questions from attendees.

At this half-day summit, participants learned from experts and heard real-world examples focusing on best practices supporting revitalization in small and rural downtowns.

Brett Banfield, President of Friends of Downtown Friendswood Association, shared his knowledge regarding some of the reasons why downtown beautification is important to economic development and how Friendswood is accomplishing its revitalization goals. Ron Cox, Past President of the Friendswood Downtown Economic Development Corporation, shared his knowledge on the history, regulations, and planning underway for Friendswood's Economic Development activities. Isaac Perez, Senior Business Developer for the Houston-Galveston Area Local Development Corporation, share his knowledge on some funding opportunities, such as loans and grants programs.

The event was hosted by the City of Friendswood, and breakfast was generously sponsored by CobbFendley & Associates.

Jason Vandever, Energy Code Program Manager at SPEER, shared his knowledge on meeting building codes and standards when renovating old or historic buildings in your downtown. Jason’s presentation was followed by a tour of two renovated buildings in downtown Angleton led by Martha Eighme, City of Angleton’s Economic Development and Tourism Director.

Workshop Series on Downtown Revitalization in Small Cities and Towns

H-GAC hosted a series of workshops with experts from throughout Texas providing tips on how to create an economically-vibrant Main Street in the region’s small cities and towns. Each workshop focused on a different component of the revitalization process.

Speakers described characteristics of vibrant downtowns and explain how communities can plan for revitalization, based on community input.

Speakers identified policies, programs and funding tools that can be used to support and encourage investment downtown.

Speakers described ways communities can market their downtowns to residents, businesses and visitors.