Main Street America

Main Street Four Points

The Main Street Center Four Point Approach™ is a preservation-based economic development tool that provides a foundational method for local efforts to revitalize downtown historic and commercial districts. As an essential component of the method, Montana communities utilize their local assets — historic architecture, cultural and natural resources and heritage, local enterprise and community pride. The four points of the Main Street approach (described below) allow Montana communities to harness local ideas and goals in a unified and organized community revitalization effort.


Organization establishes consensus and cooperation by building partnerships among the various groups that have a stake in the community. By getting everyone working toward the same goal, a Main Street program can provide effective, ongoing management and support for the downtown or neighborhood business district. Through volunteer recruitment and collaboration with partners representing a broad cross section of the community, a program can incorporate a wide range of perspectives into its efforts. A governing board of directors and standing committees make up the fundamental organizational structure of volunteer-driven revitalization programs. Volunteers are often coordinated and supported by a paid program director; for Affiliate communities that may not have paid staff, coordination efforts may be led by a mayor or council member, planning director or a leader within the local Chamber or economic development organization. Active participation of, and coordination with local elected officials and municipal staff is a must. This structure not only divides the workload and clearly delineates responsibilities, but also builds consensus and cooperation among the various community members.



Promotion takes many forms, but the goal is to create a positive image that will rekindle community pride and improve consumer and investor confidence in the commercial district and beyond. Advertising, retail promotions, special events, and marketing campaigns help sell the image and promise of Main Street to the community and surrounding region. Promotions communicate the unique characteristics, amenities, business establishments and activities your community has to shoppers, investors, potential business and property owners, and visitors.


Design means getting Main Street into top physical shape and creating an inviting environment for residents and visitors alike. It takes advantage of the visual opportunities inherent in a community by directing attention to all of its physical elements: architectural form and function of both public and private buildings, storefronts, signage, public spaces, parking, street furniture, public art, landscaping, merchandising and promotional materials. An appealing atmosphere, created through attention to all of these visual elements, conveys a positive message about the community and what it has to offer. Design activities also include instilling good maintenance practices, enhancing a community’s physical appearance through the rehabilitation of historic buildings, encouraging appropriate new construction, developing sensitive design management systems, educating business and property owners about design quality, and long-term planning.

Economic Vitality

Economic restructuring strengthens a community's existing economic assets while diversifying its economic base. This is accomplished by retaining and expanding successful businesses to provide a balanced commercial mix, sharpening the competitiveness and merchandising skills of business owners, and attracting new businesses that the market can support. Converting unused or underused commercial space into economically productive property also helps boost the profitability of the district. The goal is to build a sustainable commercial district that responds to the needs of today's consumers.

The Montana Main Street Tier System allows member communities to engage in long-range planning and downtown revitalization at three distinct levels. Participant communities enter the program into a tier system as an affiliate member with the capability of gradually progressing to a Designated or Certified level.

Affiliate Community

The Affiliate Community tier allows all eligible communities the opportunity to learn and develop the Main Street Four Point Approach™ while accessing the resources and services of the program network. This tier is designed for communities entering the program and in the early stages of organization and capacity building. A community may remain at the Affiliate level indefinitely, but should be taking steps to advance upward in the tier system with the ultimate goal of achieving Certified Main Street Community status. Affiliate Communities do not require paid staff, but must have a volunteer base and widespread local support, including the city and Chamber of Commerce or a similar organization. Affiliates receive training and support from the Montana Main Street Program staff, are able to apply for annual grant funding with a local match of 1:5 ($1 of local match for every $5 committed by the state), and are invited to attend our regional workshops and conferences at a reduced cost (depending on program budget). Affiliate communities are required to submit quarterly reports to the Montana Main Street Coordinator.

Designated Community

The Designated Community tier requires demonstrated and practiced application of the Main Street Approach™, an organizational structure with at least one paid staff member to oversee the local Main Street program, and established Board of Directors and Main Street committee/s, a solid volunteer base, and a well-developed and organized community revitalization effort. A community may remain at the Designated Community level indefinitely, but should actively move toward the realization of Certified Main Street Community status. Designated Communities receive priority service and training from the Montana Main Street Program staff, are able to apply for annual grant funding with no required local match, receive free registration for one representative at our regional workshops and conferences, and receive free membership in the national Main Street Center network. Designated Main Street organizations can exist as an independent non-profit or be incorporated into other already existing organizations, such as a chamber of commerce or downtown association. Community representatives may also serve as mentors in the Montana Main Street Mentorship Program. Designated Communities are required to submit quarterly reports to the Montana Main Street Coordinator.

Certified Main Street Community

The Certified Main Street Community tier fully demonstrates a perfected Main Street Approach™ and boasts nationally recognized success with downtown revitalization organization and efforts. Certified Main Street communities are nationally recognized by the Main Street Center and serve as examples of best practices to Montana Affiliate and Designated communities. This tier requires the community to meet all the requirements of a Designated Community and to be reviewed annually to assure that the community meets the 10 Standards of Performance set by the national Main Street Center. While every designated Main Street program can work toward accreditation, not every program receives it. Certified Main Street Communities receive priority service and training from the Montana Main Street Program staff, are able to apply for annual grant funding with no required local match, receive free registration for one representative at our regional workshops and conferences, receive one free registration for the National Main Street Conference, and receive free membership in the national Main Street Center network. Community representatives may also serve as mentors in the Montana Main Street Mentorship Program. Certified Main Street Communities are required to submit quarterly reports to the Montana Main Street Coordinator.


Organizational Assistance:

Montana Main Street staff works with member communities on issues of staff responsibility, long-range planning, community needs assessment, and implementation.

Technical Assistance:

Member communities receive continuous technical assistance from Montana Main Street staff to assist in achieving programmatic goals.


Member communities have access to free regional workshops and webinars hosted by Montana Main Street and other affiliated programs.

Annual Conference:

Member communities have the opportunity to attend the annual Montana Downtown Conference at a reduced cost.

Main Street 101 / Four Point Foundational Training:

Montana Main Street staff will provide training to new member communities as needed/requested.

Grant Funding:

Member communities have the ability to apply for annual grant funding to assist them in planning for revitalization and completing activities and projects in their downtowns. Certified and Designated Communities are not required to provide a local match; Affiliate Communities are required to provide a local match.

Community Networking:

Montana Main Street communities have access to an open forum in which to exchange ideas and provide assistance in a discussion of best practices. The Montana Main Street Program publishes a quarterly online newsletter with content designed to assist communities and broaden the context of community efforts and funding opportunities.

Planning Bureau Resource Library:

Essential books, articles, and digital resources available for loan.

Montana Main Street Program Grant Funding:

The Montana Main Street Program awards grant funding on a competitive basis and as funding allows. Certified Main Street, Designated, and Affiliate Communities are invited to apply for funding on an annual basis. Communities may not apply for funding while maintaining an active Montana Main Street grant-funded project unless the active grant is in the close out process. Applications must be submitted by the local contacts established in the community and must be certified by the Chief Executive, Mayor, or City Manager of the applicant community. Funding can be used to address long range community planning and revitalization needs as well as more specific prioritized projects. Priority will be given to projects that demonstrate the implementation of larger community vision and goals or as they relate to previous or concurrent larger planning efforts (such as a downtown revitalization plan, growth policy, historic preservation plan, etc.). The Montana Main Street Program Coordinator is available to help throughout the application process and can provide professional insight and guidance on community projects.

Award Criteria:

1. Need for project and an overall emphasis on downtown revitalization and historic preservation;

2. Proposed project adopts and incorporates the Main Street Center Four Point Approach;

3. Availability of matching funds and larger project effort to identify/secure additional funding;

4. Degree of unified local effort and support and an overall ability to fulfill project plan/goals;

5. Extent to which the proposed project implements an existing long-range plan, or supports ongoing planning efforts;

6. Applicant community has submitted required Montana Main Street reinvestment statistics.

Funding Information:

Affiliate Communities are required to commit matching funds at a ratio of $1 for every $5 requested of the Montana Main Street Program. Certified Main Street and Designated Communities are not required to commit matching funds when submitting an application for grant funding. In-kind services will not be considered as part of the match requirement. Funds must be firmly committed at the time the grant is awarded; communities awarded grant funds will receive an award letter following the decision, and the Main Street organization and/or local government will enter into contract with the Montana Department of Commerce for the administration of the grant award. MMS staff will assist communities throughout the grant administration process; however, communities awarded grant funding will be responsible for the administration of grant funds received.

Funding cycles will be opened on a revolving basis and will continue as funding allows. Applications for funding will be considered in the order received and priority may be given to applicant communities that do not have active grants awarded by the Montana Main Street Program. Grant applications are reviewed and assessed on the strength and merit of the project. Award amounts are generally capped at $10,000; applications requesting larger amounts may be awarded if funds are available and if applicant clearly demonstrates and justifies the need for such funds. Applicants may apply for project grant funds in successive years, but may not have two active Main Street grants at any one time, unless one is in a close out process.


Acceptance into the Montana Main Street Program is competitive and based on community preparedness as well as resource availability at the state level; not every community that applies will be invited to join at the time of application. For more information about membership requirements, please see our Program Guidelines and Program Membership Application below.

Funds can be used for planning or brick-and-mortar projects that support downtown revitalization efforts. For more detailed information, please refer to our Montana Main Street Program Guidelines or contact our office to work with one of our team members.


MMS Program Guidelines


MMS Program Membership Application


MMS Program Tier Advancement Application


MMS Planning & Project Grant Application

MMS Impact Grant Application

MMS Request for Funds

MMS Progress Report

MMS Completion Report


Community Reinvestment Report

Reporting Timeline for Affiliate, Certified Main Street and Designated Communities (Timeline is based on fiscal quarters rather than annual quarters)

  • 1st Quarter Report (July, Aug & Sept) - Due October 31
  • 2nd Quarter Report (Oct, Nov & Dec) - Due January 31
  • 3rd Quarter Report (Jan, Feb & Mar) - Due April 30
  • 4th Quarter Report (April, May, June) - Due July 31