The story of how Hudson, MA won a national competition is the story of many small businesses working together. How did they do it? This is perhaps the most valuable information a small business owner can use.
We’ll walk you through the process step by step, but first, a quick reminder.
Win the 2021 America’s Main Streets Road to Recovery Contest
Independent We Stand is pleased to recognize Hudson, Mass., The $ 25,000 winner of the 2021 America’s Main Streets Road to Recovery Contest. Over one million votes in total were cast by the public at nationwide in the sixth annual competition.
The Hudson Downtown Business Improvement District has rallied its vast network of 85 owners, partners of the Hudson Business Association and the Assabet Valley Chamber of Commerce, and their community to vote for its entry. The organization plans to use the prize money to improve culture and the arts.
How can your city replicate Hudson’s success?
About a dozen years ago, the vacancy rate on Main Street in Hudson was 20%. Today Main Street is flourishing with a lot of foot traffic. People shop and eat in the many department stores, and take advantage of restaurants, a brasserie, and a micro-dairy.
How did Hudson do it? Did they hire an educated marketing / business specialist, and put that person at the helm, no. They found Richard A. Braga, administrator of the Downtown Hudson Business Improvement District. Braga did not come with any training or experience in business school. Braga, Hudson’s retired police chief, has a degree in criminal justice.
What did he bring to work? Years of making contacts and connections, and a true love for her community. First, Braga described the first steps Hudson had taken to revitalize its Main Street neighborhood in the following manner:
- Traders got together and formed an association for the specific purpose of revitalizing a main street.
- The business owners contacted a local real estate agent and accused him of representing all vacant properties on Main Street. The agent was challenged to find tenants to buy or rent each property.
- Business owners have started a buy local program.
The next step was to form a business improvement district.
âWe had success, places occupied and we wanted to take it to the next level,â said Braga. âIn November 2017, we formed a Business Improvement District. At that time, such neighborhoods were not common, Braga said. Hudson was on 8e train in Massachusetts.
The Business Improvement District is a legal entity, which must meet two criteria: First, 60% of all owners must agree to join. And second, that 60% must represent 51% or more of the assessed property in the district. And once the neighborhood was established, traders approached Braga.
âWhen they said they would like me to be the director, I told them I didn’t know anything about it,â Braga recalls. âI had a blast just seeing what we can do. “
How the Business Improvement District raises funds
Braga explained that the Biz Improvement District “cuts red tape” because these districts are self-established and managed organizations. (He added that each state may have its own laws on how such a district can be organized and managed).
Here’s how they did it in Hudson, starting with fundraising for upgrades.
âThe landowners have agreed to self-tax, paying a percentage of their assessed value,â Braga said. âThe money is collected by the city and the city sends the money back to the Business Improvement District. “
A board of directors makes the decisions on how the money is to be spent. In Hudson, funds were spent on improvements to the Main Street neighborhood, such as widening sidewalks to improve outdoor dining capabilities (this was before the pandemic). Additional beautification projects included updating floor lamps for sleek globe-style lighting and adding benches. They were also able to establish the Business Improvement District as a 501c3, capable of receiving donations, which are tax deductible.
The next step is the key to any business district, parking. And they solved this problem by mapping the parking spots. âThere was a lot of parking, but people didn’t know the locations,â Braga said. âEveryone wants to park right in front of a business, but you just aren’t that lucky – you have to walk a bit. “
Braga said the demographic of visitors to Main Street in Hudson is 25 to 50 years old, creating foot traffic.
Involve business district owners in finding tenants
âWe put social media posts on business locations that were open, ready for new tenants or owners,â Braga said. âWe got a lot more feedback than expected – every time we listed something, we got a dozen inquiries. “
âWe were building a good base downtown and people started to see it as a good place to settle,â he added. “They see it as a good opportunity.”
The Business Improvement District has a lot of projects and a lot of committees. The same goes for the Hudson Business Association and the Assabet Valley Chamber of Commerce, Braga said.
âThe secret to our success is that we work very well with each other and with the city,â said Braga. “We have a seat at their table and they have a seat at ours.”
When COVID hit
The Business Improvement District used a portion of the funds raised to hire a certified public accountant. The accountant assisted the companies with the PPP application process and the pardon application.
âIt was intimidating for a lot of business owners,â Braga said. âOf our 105 companies, more than 70 have taken advantage of this service, which we have provided to them free of charge. “
âWe have lost a few companies, but we have not stopped attracting new ones,â he added. “All in all we’re in better shape now than we were on 3/20/20.”
Image: theridian group