RTA’s MainStreet program assists businesses during transportation construction projects

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When initial work on the Broadway Boulevard, Euclid Avenue to Country Club, project started several years ago, Donna Smith, a new business owner at the time, felt a sense of dread.

By the time construction for the now-completed project kicked off in February 2020, Smith had only recently bought the longstanding Arizona Auto Refrigeration, which stood in the heart of the construction zone at Broadway near Fremont Avenue. 

“I immediately got hit with Broadway construction and then COVID,” Smith said, recalling the turbulent start to her tenure at her new business. 

Transportation construction invariably disrupts traffic, affects business access, and in general can make life challenging for those who operate businesses in proximity to a project.  

The Regional Transportation Authority’s complimentary MainStreet Business Assistance Program aims to reduce the impact on regional businesses, large and small, before and during the construction of transportation improvement projects from the RTA’s 20-year regional transportation plan, approved by Pima County voters in 2006.

“When the RTA plan was being developed, they recognized that the volume, size and scope of projects under consideration would create huge disruptions and impacts to nearby businesses,” said Britton Dornquast, MainStreet Program Manager. “So, a program was devised and incorporated into the plan to address the anticipated needs and to help mitigate the effects on businesses.”

While the services and resources are extensive, the MainStreet program cannot provide monetary assistance to businesses due to the state gift clause. Services the program does provide, however, fall into three key categories including project outreach, direct consulting and resources.

Smith said the consultation on social media was some of the most helpful assistance she received from MainStreet consultants. “You just have to have a social media presence,” she said. “You can’t do business as usual in a construction zone.” 

The consultants, Smith said, instilled in her the need to post frequently to social media platforms, so the public has a better chance of seeing your messages and knows your business is still open during construction. 

Consultants also provide clients with regular construction updates along with customized digital maps of the construction zone and direct access routes to businesses, which can easily be shared on social media and with email contacts.  

“They saved me so much time,” Smith said. 

In addition to providing fact sheets, traffic updates, project timelines and notices of public meetings, the outreach liaisons can coordinate with businesses to address specific concerns with issues such as planning for construction, business access, safety, parking, utilities and scheduling conflicts.

The consultants offer a variety of confidential consulting services. A few examples include:

  • Identifying social media and marketing strategies to maintain and even grow target markets
  • Conducting financial analyses, budgeting, forecasting, cash flow management and identifying operating strategies to minimize losses and/or enhance profitability
  • Analyses to identify potential opportunities and strategies to mitigate construction impacts
  • Designing custom access mapping and temporary signage
  • Providing customer service and sales training to maximize revenues

Finally, the MainStreet Business Assistance Program has created an extensive resource directory that provides contact information for business services from within non-profit and public sectors and has developed tip sheets for managing a business throughout a construction project.

“The services and expertise we offer are tailored to meet the very specific needs of each business,” Dornquast said. “We don’t do one-size-fits-all.”

With a variety of services available and the flexibility to meet individual business needs, Smith recommends any company about to be impacted by RTA-funded construction work to take advantage of what MainStreet can offer.

“You don’t have the time not to listen to them,” Smith said. 

Here’s a look at what the RTA program and its team of private-sector business consultants has accomplished since its inception in 2007:

  • Assisted more than 10,100 business to date.
  • Currently working with over 3,350 businesses on 14 regional projects.
  • Providing complimentary business services in three categories: project outreach, direct consulting and resources.
  • Conducted over 60,000 business outreach visits to date.
  • Provided follow-up and resolution on thousands of specific questions during planning, design and construction phases.
  • Produced more than 15,500 customized consulting deliverables.
  • Created an online Southern Arizona Small Business Resource Directory with nearly 2,000 resources tailored to businesses, non-profits and other organizations.
  • Sent project update emails to over 21,000 business participants annually.
  • The MainStreet Business Assistance Program is a nationally recognized, award-winning program.

Find out more on the MainStreet FAQ page.