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Three Main Street America Staff members standing in front of a mural in Marion, Iowa.

Marion, Iowa © Tasha Sams

About

We work in collaboration with thousands of local partners and grassroots leaders across the nation who share our commitment to advancing shared prosperity, creating resilient economies, and improving quality of life.

Overview Who We Are How We Work Partner Collaborations Our Supporters Our Team Job Opportunities Contact Us
Two community members in Emporia Kansas pose with a sign saying "I'm a Main Streeter"

Emporia, Kansas © Emporia Main Street

Our Network

Made up of small towns, mid-sized communities, and urban commercial districts, the thousands of organizations, individuals, volunteers, and local leaders that make up Main Street America™ represent the broad diversity that makes this country so unique.

Overview Coordinating Programs Main Street Communities Collective Impact Awards & Recognition Community Evaluation Framework Join the Movement
Dionne Baux and MSA partner working in Bronzeville, Chicago.

Chicago, Illinois © Main Street America

Resources

Looking for strategies and tools to support you in your work? Delve into the Main Street Resource Center and explore a wide range of resources including our extensive Knowledge Hub, professional development opportunities, field service offerings, advocacy support, and more!

Overview Knowledge Hub Field Services Government Relations Main Street Now Conference Main Street America Institute Small Business Support Allied Member Services The Point Members Area
People riding e-scooters in Waterloo, Iowa

Waterloo, Iowa © Main Street Waterloo

The Latest

Your one-stop-shop for all the latest stories, news, events, and opportunities – including grants and funding programs – across Main Street.

Overview News & Stories Events & Opportunities Subscribe
Woman and girl at a festival booth in Kendall Whittier, Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Kendall Whittier — Tulsa, Oklahoma © Kendall Whittier Main Street

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Join us in our work to advance shared prosperity, create strong economies, and improve quality of life in downtowns and neighborhood commercial districts.

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July 23, 2018 | Learnings from the ESHIP Summit | Matthew Wagner, Ph.D., Vice President of Revitalization Programs, National Main Street Center |

ESHIP Summit, photo credit: Matt Wagner, NMSC

Wayne Sutton and Melinda Briana Epler of Change Catalyst present at the 2018 ESHIP Summit. Photo credit: Matt Wagner, NMSC

Last week, the Kaufmann Foundation, along with a number of national, state and local groups including the National Main Street Center (NMSC), participated in the 2018 ESHIP Summit, a three-day convening designed to further the development of entrepreneurial ecosystems in communities across the U.S., while cultivating the field of entrepreneurial ecosystem building. Although there has been a great deal of academic research on entrepreneurial ecosystems, their development has been primarily limited to the widely-known technology entrepreneurship hubs such as California’s Silicon Valley, North Carolina's Research Triangle, and Boston's Route 128 corridor. This summit was part of a larger three-year initiative to “create tools, resources and knowledge to better support communities that empower makers, doers and dreamers” no matter where they’re located.

What is an entrepreneurial ecosystem?

By most definitions, entrepreneurial ecosystems refer to the strategic alignment of a variety of public and private efforts—including government policies, funding and finance, human capital, and regulatory frameworks— to provide necessary financial, social, and human capital to foster entrepreneurship in innovative and creative ways. Frequently overlooked in these definitions is the value of place and the physical environment as central factors in creating and growing successful enterprises. By emphasizing the creation and support of great places and spaces for people to live and work, commercial districts can attract new businesses and new ideas, thus contributing directly to the development of the local entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Entrepreneurial Ecosystems and the Role of Commercial Districts, National Main Street CenterEntrepreneurial Ecosystems and the Role of Commercial Districts, National Main Street Center

Supporting new and existing small businesses, and the entrepreneurs who run them, represents a vital aspect of the revitalization of downtowns and neighborhood business districts. These enterprises are the key to future prosperity, so it is imperative that commercial district leaders understand their importance and support their growth. New businesses, especially those owned and operated by Millennials, immigrants, and minority groups, will bring new ideas, innovation, excitement, and jobs to communities.

As communities experience this transition in entrepreneurship, there is a corresponding transition in the habits of consumers. A truly robust local entrepreneurial ecosystem recognizes a location’s physical environment as a critical factor for ensuring small business success. Putting “place” in a prominent position within an entrepreneurship strategy recognizes that historic business districts have the character, building stock, and walkable human scale that provides a competitive advantage within the marketplace and is conducive to the kind of personalized, experiential shopping desired by today’s consumers.

Read more about entrepreneurial ecosystems and Main Street in our Entrepreneurial Ecosystems and the Role of Commercial Districts excerpt. Or, visit the
entrepreneurial ecosystems project spotlight page for information on Main Street America Institute courses, trainings and technical service resources.

Photo credit: Matt Wagner, NMSCPlacemakers are key external stakeholders in developing the field of entrepreneurial ecosystem builders. Main Street programs are critical to creating inclusive opportunities through vibrant places and spaces for entrepreneurs to launch, grow and flourish. Photo credit: Matt Wagner, NMSC

ESHIP Summit Takeaways

I left the three-day ESHIP Summit inspired and energized to continue our work on entrepreneurial ecosystems. Here are my four key takeaways:

1. Managing Entrepreneurial Ecosystems. The field is still in its infancy, and while there are a lot of entrepreneurship training, financial and networking programs, there are very few comprehensive programming efforts and identified group/organizations that manage an ecosystem. In many ways it runs parallel to the initial launch of Main Street, where there were many players working in areas of economic development, architecture, event planning, etc., but no identified primary advocate, conveyor, champion etc., which we know today as downtown/commercial revitalization professionals.

2. Goals. In developing entrepreneurial ecosystems, the ESHIP Summit featured seven goals around the field:

Inclusive Field Shared Vision Qualified Methods Sustainable Work Collaborative Culture Connected Networks Universal Support

These concepts should come as highly intuitive to program leaders in Main Street Programs as they are highly representative of Main Street guiding principles.

3. Opportunity at Main Street Now Conference. We at the national level have the opportunity to use our annual Main Street Now Conference as a forum to not only communicate new knowledge to attendees, but also to leverage a diverse group of key stakeholders in a way that further informs the direction of the network and its leadership at both the national and state/city/county coordinating levels.

4. Place-Based Factors. This summit further confirmed the need to communicate the importance of place and better understand how place enhances the entrepreneurial  ecosystem. Over the next years, we will be embarking on new research that seeks to discover the various place-based factors that influence location decisions and increase success rates for existing and emerging entrepreneurs.

Photo credit: Matt Wagner, NMSC Andy Stoll, Kauffman Foundation Senior Program Officer and ESHIP Summit presenter, speaks to stakeholders around the country on the importance of entrepreneurial ecosystems to building sustainable and inclusive economies. Photo credit: Matt Wagner, NMSC

About the Author:

Matthew Wagner, Ph.D., has more than 20 years of non-profit management experience in downtown development, entrepreneurship and tech-based economic development. As Vice President of Revitalization Programs at the National Main Street Center, Inc., he is responsible for driving the Center’s field service initiatives including the development and delivery of technical services for Main Street America and Urban Main programs, as well as professional development programming through the Main Street America Institute.

Aside from his professional experiences, academically Dr. Wagner has completed his Ph.D. with a focus on economic development and entrepreneurship. He is a Fulbright Specialist Scholar, completing a teaching assignment on social entrepreneurship at the University of Hyderabad, India. He has also presented internationally on topics of economic development and community revitalization in Japan and Australia. Dr. Wagner also served as part of the U.S. State Department’s Speakers Bureau program, working with the US Embassy in Lithuania as part of a five-region tour on entrepreneurship and community development. Furthermore, Dr. Wagner has a long history of program and service delivery in the area of small business development. As a testament to this work, he has been awarded the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Wisconsin Champion for Women-Owned Businesses, for his efforts to support women entrepreneurs. He is also a former Executive in Residence at Cardinal Stritch University (Milwaukee), helping to craft the University’s professional development programming in Social Entrepreneurship.