Pennsylvania Downtown Center Releases New Study Measuring the Resiliency of PA’s Main Streets Throughout the Pandemic

Read the full study here

As part of its ongoing mission to support Main Street and Elm Street programs throughout the commonwealth, the Pennsylvania Downtown Center (PDC), in partnership with Jon Stover & Associates (JS&A) released a new study today exploring the resiliency of PA’s Main Street Program during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted local economies and the day-to-day lives of people in communities across the country and world. Businesses of all sizes and in all types of communities were forced to adjust their operations in response to changing regulations, consumer preferences, and safety measures starting with the onset of the pandemic in early 2020. Immediately after the pandemic’s onset, Main Streets across the commonwealth mobilized and began helping their local businesses respond to these new challenges, roadblocks, and unprecedented changes in the economy. JS&A’s analysis, conducted in July 2022, found that with the support of these programmatic efforts, customer traffic quickly bounced back, and downtown consumer spending surpassed pre-pandemic levels for most of 2021 and throughout 2022.

“In short, it was clear to us that the PA Main Street Program played a major role in the economic resiliency and recovery of downtown communities throughout the pandemic. Main Streets provided a local conduit for national, state, and local resources and administered a range of technical and financial support services that help explain how most of these communities recovered relatively quickly despite the pandemic’s long and devastating impacts,” said Jon Stover, Managing Partner of JS&A.

The critical on-the-ground support that PA’s Main Streets provided enabled thousands of businesses to adjust and sustain their operations. Providing direct financial resources, support in applying to grants and loans, and disseminating health and policy updates all worked to support the operations of local businesses. Main Street programs also effectively attracted customers to downtown business by leveraging social media, incentivizing ways to shop local during the pandemic, and creatively programming public spaces and hosting outdoor events to boost nearby business sales. Even as local economies began to stabilize, elevated levels of local customer support continued throughout 2020, 2021, and into 2022, and has remained a lifeblood for Main Street businesses, pointing to the strong customer bases that these programs nurture in their communities.

“To say that the last few years have been challenging for Pennsylvania’s downtowns and neighborhood business districts is an understatement, however this study speaks to the resiliency and dedication of PA’s Main Street Programs,” said Julie Fitzpatrick, Executive Director, Pennsylvania Downtown Center. “We saw first-hand the social and economic impact of the local nonprofits’ assistance, and the power of residents shifting their spending to support these local businesses as we’re all adapting to this ever-changing market.”

This project was financed in part by a grant from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, DCED Keystone Communities planning grant. PDC is a Main Street America Coordinating Program. The Main Street Approach is a comprehensive, community-based framework for revitalizing downtowns across the country. Main Street empowers communities to leverage local leadership, transform their economics, and improve the vibrancy of downtowns of all sizes. Main Streets in Pennsylvania lead and deliver locally-based technical assistance and support for downtown revitalization efforts.

Read the full study here

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