7 Shop Local Ideas, 13 Colorado Communities
The holidays are just around the corner. Will your community members be shopping locally? Recent studies show that local businesses can generate as much as three times more economic activity than those big-box retailers, which means more money recirculating back into the community.You need look no further than your neighboring towns to see how Colorado communities of all sizes are building successful Shop Local campaigns.1. Create a Shop Local logo or slogan to reinforce shopping in your community. Anyone can say “Shop local,” but how do you remind consumers to shop local in your community? Many cities have had success with creating customized logos and slogans:Colorado Springs: There is only one DowntownBoulder: Love the LocalParker: Go to TownBrush!: Don’t Rush through Brush!2. Develop an online business directory for your downtown. Check out Monument and Steamboat Springs for inspiration.3. Design a printed directory for your downtown and distribute it. It’s important to have an online directory, but for those who are wandering through downtown, a printed guide can be a big help to encourage shopping. Many downtowns also build a large downtown directory, similar to what one might see in a mall. Check out Denver’s Old South Pearl Street guide for a good example.4. Provide local businesses and merchants with helpful resources. Help your businesses to help themselves by providing a guide to local resources for both new and current business owners. Granby has recently created a “Doing Business in Granby” guide and Boulder’s business improvement district, Downtown Boulder, Inc., offers an online guide to Marketing Solutions for Downtown Businesses. The City of Longmont developed the Longmong Economic Gardening Initiative in 2006 to provide counseling and services to small businesses.5. Host downtown events that encourage patronage and reinforce the habit of coming downtown. Psychologists say you must do something 28 times before it becomes habit. Help locals to learn this behavior by holding events that will encourage them to patronize downtown retailers and restaurants. Fruita hosts a hometown Cowboy Christmas Shopping & Weekend Festivities event in November and Steamboat Springs launched their first-ever Sisters in Steamboat weekend this past October to encourage female bonding downtown. Farmers markets and Friday Art Walks are other popular events in many Colorado communities.6. Educate consumers on shopping local. Shopping local is frequently becoming an ethical decision for consumers who want to reinvest in their communities. Teach people the benefits of voting with their dollars locally by educating them on how shopping locally positively impacts their community. Both Golden and Boulder have created online web pages to do just this.7. Build loyalty through local coupon books and gift certificate programs. Loyalty programs are everywhere these days and for good reason. You can create your own loyal following by offering benefits through coupons, gift certificates, or frequent shopper programs geared toward downtown stores. La Plata County created a Be Local coupon book of local retailers. The Colorado Springs Downtown Partnership has created a Downtown Colorado Springs gift card in varying denominations that is accepted in more than 100 local retailers. Carbondale is currently holding a drawing for an electric car; shoppers receive a ticket when they shop at one of 200 participating Carbondale businesses.
Did you miss the November Downtown Institute: Economic Restructuring? Downtown Institute featured speaker and guest blogger Hilarie Portell of Portell Works blogs about business attraction and retention strategies recently implemented in communities across Colorado.
Numerous communities were spotlighted for their creative approaches to business attraction and retention at the November 5 Downtown Institute in Monte Vista. In a difficult economy where nobody is taking risks, here are some ways you can use local resources and talent to “grow your own.”
- The City of Aurora East End Arts District offers financial incentives for specific types of businesses to locate in the district. The grants, which average about $50,000, must be used for “bricks and mortar” projects and matched by the business. Source of the grants is Community Development Block Grant funds.
- Monte Vista has an economic development assistance policy that offers loans and city support for new and expanding business. Incentives may total up to $50,000. Small low interest loans are offered by a local bank as part of their Community Reinvestment Act obligation. City support may include waivers or reduction of various fees, as well as property tax rebates.
- Many communities are exploring community-owned business models, and financing through Community Investment Institutions. Would your community leaders invest in a downtown incentive or business?
Multi-Tenant Non-profit Centers
- The Denver Housing Authority has created a multi-tenant nonprofit center in their Benedict Park Place community. Nonprofit organizations can fill downtown space, provide needed community services, create foot traffic and generate revenue for property owners.
- The City of Brighton offers small business assistance, job training, early childhood education and affordable healthcare services at the Brighton Learning and Resource Campus.
- Local libraries can be an invaluable source of information and training for small business owners and entrepreneurs. The Town of Parker librarian is “embedded” with the downtown development group. She offers access to marketing databases, business research, and connections to business counselors and training. Involve your local librarian in your downtown effort.
- Many communities are putting business resources on their websites. Castle Rock’s Economic Gardening program and Boulder’s Business Portal offer step-by-step instructions for new or expanding businesses, as well as research tools and training opportunities.
- Shop Local. The Town of Castle Rock’s “Rock Your Dollar” campaign generated $1.5 million in local spending in a two-month period. Shoppers earned cash cards for every $500 spent at local businesses ($50 card) or every $1,000 spent ($100 card). The Town provided $11,000 for the cash cards.
- Castle Rock and Monte Vista have both streamlined approval processes for new development or businesses. How many steps do business owners have to take to set up shop in your district? If you mapped it, could you work with those on the inside to streamline?
Hilarie Portell is passionate about creating and revitalizing urban places. She has worked in public relations, marketing and management for a variety of complex projects for nearly 20 years and is founding principal of Portell Works.
Downtown Colorado, Inc. (DCI) has partnered with the Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) and teams of volunteer professionals to conduct technical assistance visits to communities across the state since 2005. Large and small, suburban and rural, resort or college town, we see the same five issues surfacing time and again. Do any of these issues sound familiar to you?
- Communications: Miscommunication or a lack of communications between the local government and business, residents, and other entities (e.g., libraries, museums, hospitals).
- Downtown Management: Difficulty accessing local resources to synchronize initiatives for maximum impact.
- Mobility: How to link resources/attractions for an enhanced pedestrian environment with coordinated signage, parking, and way-finding.
- Business Retention, Expansion, and Attraction: Developing an ongoing business support program to serve as ambassadors to link businesses to training, information, and assistance.
- Financing: Identifying mechanisms for generating funds to focus on downtown whether locally generated through a business improvement district or downtown development authority, or identifying sources for grants and other externally generated support.
In this fourth installment of our five-part series, we address specific business retention and attraction areas to examine, as well as actual recommendations from recent technical assistance visits.
Business Retention, Expansion, and Attraction
In this economy perhaps more than ever, it is essential to focus on business retention and attraction strategies. We are seeing so many local businesses across the state that are forced to close their doors after many years in business. We like to say that those empty storefront windows are the equivalent of missing teeth in your smile.
A shuttered business does not just impact that business, but is also detrimental to all the businesses around it. Similarly, the more thriving businesses you have in your downtown, the more people that will be attracted to your downtown—investors, new businesses, and patrons alike.
Yet, our communities run into the same problems repeatedly: how do you attract successful businesses to your community and how do you keep them there?
Some things to consider:
- Are you supporting your local businesses and merchants? Help your businesses to help themselves by providing a guide to local resources for both new and current business owners. Include resources for training and development programs (don’t forget your regional Colorado Small Business Development Center office!) and local guidelines and contact info. For inspiration, check out the “Doing Business in Granby” guide or Boulder’s Marketing Solutions for Downtown Businesses.
- Does your town give the impression that it is a business-friendly community? Do you have a cohesive marketing package for current and potential businesses? You cannot expect potential businesses owners to be attracted to your town if you are not proactively marketing to them.
- Is there a way for visitors and residents alike to easily find out which services and goods are available in town? We have heard in many focus groups that residents didn’t even know a product or service was available in town, so they were buying it in the next town! A simple directory, whether online or printed, can help direct traffic to your local businesses.
- Have you considered conducting a market analysis? Sure, a marketing analysis can be expensive, but even a simple survey where merchants ask their customers for a zip code can help the community gain important insight into customer base.
Below are some actual business retention and attraction recommendations from recent DCI/DOLA technical assistance visits:
- Inventory products and services available in town and create material to highlight them. Your community provides a variety of services to the community and there is no single source that promotes this effort. Partners, like the local community bank, for example, have resources available that could create an online “Marketplace” or business directory. This tool would allow the community, visitors, and potential new residents the ability to see what is available in town and produce incentives (coupons, event notices) that would increase traffic to the website and to local businesses.
- Conduct a vacant downtown property inventory and post it on the town website. As time and resources allow, expand site inventory to be more informative with additional zoning information, dimensions, description of surface conditions, description of utilities, and parking requirements. The town has many vacant parcels that have significant influence in enhancing or detracting from the town’s character. Utilizing existing property data, a database of available properties should be made available online in order to promote business interests in the Town. Providing this information, in addition to a comprehensive market analysis, will allow potential business owners with the information needed to make better decisions on where to locate their interests in the town.
- Conduct various market assessments that will provide data that will allow decision-makers, developers and business interests to make better informed decisions. In order for investment to continue and grow, market assessments are needed to provide the necessary data to make decisions, both from the town’s position as well as the developer. From home health to open spaces to transportation needs, analyzing what is in place and what may be needed is vital to spur economic growth. Initially, some steps can be made with minimal investment. For example, town businesses could ask patrons for their residential zip code. This would enable the business community to target where customers are located and where advertising dollars should be spent.
Technical Assistance Visits
We hope these questions and recommendations will get you thinking from a new perspective about approaching downtown management strategies for your community. For a detailed technical assistance visit that will address all of the specific issues your community is facing as well as provide an action plan to tackle them, visit our technical assistance information at www.downtowncoloradoinc.org to download an application or call DCI today at 303.282.0625.
DCI’s executive director Katherine Correll blogs about last week’s technical assistance visit in Delta, Colorado.
In the last month Downtown Colorado, Inc. (DCI) was fortunate to conduct a Community Revitalization Partnership visit in the City of Delta. These visits are conducted in partnership with and sponsored by the Department of Local Affairs, with partial support from the State Historical Fund and USDA Rural Development.
The City of Delta, gateway to the Gunnison River Valley, is located in a wide valley in western Colorado between Grand Junction and Montrose at the confluence of the Uncompahgre and Gunnison Rivers. Delta’s geographic location and lush agricultural land has been attracting inhabitants for over millennia. With a population of approximately 8,000, the City of Delta is the largest community in Delta County and boasts an array of recreational and cultural opportunities. Ranching, agriculture and mineral extraction are the biggest industries in the region.
The City of Delta took the initiative to request technical assistance to look at a number of events that are impacting or will potentially impact the community and the economy. Team members included representatives from Colorado Center for Community Development (CCCD), Colorado Rural Health, Department of Local Affairs, Downtown Colorado, Inc., Studio Bridge, and USDA Rural Development with technical support from a University of Colorado at Denver Intern.
One major issue on the table is that Delta’s main street is a highway. It is no new story, but noise, grime, and danger caused by thousands of trucks each day truly limit the ability of this community to utilize the main street to its full potential. The community has been working with CDOT to plan an alternative truck route, but as those plans evolve, the community is concerned with building in support to make sure there aren’t negative impacts on main street businesses. Other issues this community is facing include a lack of communication processes, a need for consistent leadership in planning and implementation, and a strong champion to drive collaboration with stakeholders and business owners.
Certainly, many communities can identify with these issues. Based on experiences we have seen in DCI member communities throughout the state, these issues they are not new or remarkable. However, I will never forget one aspect of this community. During the community meetings there was clearly a need for businesses to air their issues. And as is usually the case where communications have broken down, there was one business owner who was most vocal and most disappointed with the economy, the community, and the status of their businesses. Following the presentation of the plan for the community, we witnessed a complete turn around as the most negative business owner declared publicly that this is a viable plan to address the needs of the community. This was a truly inspiring moment for me, and I hope the community will work with this vocal business owner to focus his renewed belief in the community and to drive home their efforts.
Interested in technical assistance in your community? Visit our website or call DCI today at 303.282.0625.
At the Downtown Colorado, Inc. (DCI) annual conference, DCI had the pleasure of announcing Lamar, Colorado, as the newest Colorado Main Street Community. Lamar received a DCI technical assistance visit in July of 2008, with the sponsorship of the Department of Local Affairs and partial support from the State Historical Fund.
The community has moved forward with implementation at an amazing pace. In addition to forming an urban renewal authority, hiring a downtown manager, and linking to a strong community of partner organizations in town, Lamar completed the Colorado Main Street Program application process (no small thing).
Following acceptance into the Colorado Main Street Program, Lamar became eligible for a Main Street Resource Team visit with the sponsorship of the Department of Local Affairs and partial support from the State Historical Fund and USDA Rural Development. This visit was geared toward getting committees and a board of directors up and running. The three days included five training sessions in addition to focus groups; these allowed the resource team to compile a to-do list to guide the community through implementation of the next few years for the downtown commercial corridor.
Team members included representatives from Colorado Center for Community Development (CCCD), Department of Local Affairs, Downtown Colorado, Inc., Nolte Engineering, and Ricker Cunningham. DCI is proud to welcome Lamar into our community and congratulates Lamar on their successful initiatives and bright future!