Archive | August, 2010

The Evolving Roles of BIDs in Tough Economic Times

24 Aug

Since March 2010, Downtown Colorado, Inc. has been holding monthly forums to focus on issues that affect development and improvement districts (DIDs): business improvement districts (BID)s, downtown development authorities (DDAs), and urban renewal authorities (URAs) in Colorado. 

These informal DIDs meetings not provides a group of expert panelists to address the topic at hand, but also gives attendees the chance to discuss any issues or challenges with their peers in attendance.

We asked Jill Mendoza, Progressive Urban Management Associates, to provide an update on the August 12 forum, The Evolving Role of BIDs in Tough Economic Times.

On August 12, 2010, the session entitled, The Evolving Roles of BIDs in Tough Economic Times, was held as part of the Development and Improvement District (DID) Series.  The discussion was co-facilitated by John Desmond, Downtown Denver Partnership, and Anna Jones, Progressive Urban Management Associates, and Denver City Councilwoman Jeanne Robb.

The session was an open discussion about the value created and the challenges faced by Business Improvement Districts (BIDs).  Many of the participants were BID managers, so they were able to share their real-world experience and perspective with the group.  There was an emphasis on the increasing pressure on BIDs to provide services as municipalities cut budgets and services.  This sparked an interesting discussion regarding the role of BIDs and whether or not they can perform some of these services more effectively than municipalities. 

There was a focus on the challenge of including residential properties in BIDs and the benefit realized by residents living in the district.  There was not a consensus about whether or not to include residential properties in BIDs was something worth pursuing at the state level, given general economic concerns and the notion that now is not the time to take on that issue. There was a consensus however, that as residential increases within the district, those residents put increasing pressure for services on BIDs.

Discussion ensued about the distinct differences among BIDs depending on the district they serve, whether they are urban, commercial or mixed-use.  The issues and challenges faced by BIDs vary widely, as each district is unique.

The next DIDs forum will take place Wednesday, September 8, on Marketing a Suburban District to the Development Community. Attendance is open to DCI members only! Sign up or renew your membership now! Learn more about upcoming DIDs forums now!

Adjusting to a Changing Economic Landscape

19 Aug

 Downtowns Innovate with Community Development Models

by Brad Segal, President, Progressive Urban Management Associates

The sluggish recovery to the recession is the most visible indicator that our pre-existing framework for economic development has changed.  Large companies profiting without job growth, the limited availability of credit and conservative consumption patterns are all converging to slow growth.

Despite these challenges, there are immediate opportunities to advance economic development for downtowns and neighborhood business districts.  A variety of community development approaches and tools that utilize local resources, some old and some new, are being mobilized to jump-start new businesses, jobs and investment.  By acting locally to advance development in the near term, downtowns and neighborhood business districts will be better positioned to capitalize on long-term trends that bode well for urban areas.

Looking at the big picture, the following trends support the long-term prosperity of downtowns and neighborhood business districts.

1)       Livability as a foundation of economic stability and growth. Livability is a multi-dimensional lifestyle concept applied to a place that has all of the attributes that are valued in vibrant urban areas: Quality affordable housing that is close to jobs or convenient transportation in an environment that is safe, clean, walkable and stimulating.  Livability also encompasses healthy lifestyles, including access to active recreation and fresh food.  During the recession, livable urban areas have held their value better than more one-dimensional suburban environments. 

2)       Bottom-up job growth strategies are here to stay.  Over the past generation, changes in technology and lifestyles elevated the importance of small businesses to advance local economies. The recession makes small business the only near-term opportunity for most communities.  Keys to successfully incubating small businesses include understanding local markets, identifying suitable space, mobilizing local capital and providing an array of support services.  Offering a stimulating and livable environment is critical to attracting innovative entrepreneurs. Ironically, the recession offers a great opportunity for local small business development efforts, as highly skilled unemployed people seek to redefine their careers and pursue entrepreneurial passions.

3)       Workers will be the new business location decision-makers.  While the near-term jobs outlook is dispiriting, long-term demographics anticipate a labor shortage in the not-too-distant future.  As older baby boomers retire there are simply less younger workers to replace them.  When the jobs imbalance hits, more value will be placed on the availability of workers and less on the preferences of top management.  Growing businesses will need to locate where highly skilled labor wants to live, work and play. 

While long term trends are favorable for downtowns, advancing economic development in the current economy demands using grassroots initiative to build local economies.  Traditional community development models are finding new life and applications in downtown and neighborhood business district settings.  At the DCI Conference in Glenwood Springs and in the Fall 2010 edition of the P.U.M.A. newsletter we’ll share examples that we have found particularly instructive.

Brad Segal is the president and founder of Progressive Urban Management Associates, a national leader in providing consulting services to advance downtown and community development. Brad will be speaking at DCI’s Annual Conference on Friday, September 24, at 7:30 am as a part of our Essential Community Responses to the New Economic Reality Speaker Series and will share his perspective on best downtown management responses in a difficult economy.

10 Tips to Maximize Your Conference Experience

19 Aug

Attending conferences can be an expensive and time-consuming proposition. Besides the cost of registration and travel, the sessions can often be overwhelming and long days are filled with lots of information. On the other hand, conferences can be one of the most beneficial and valuable investments for your business, if you approach them the right way.

Here are 10 tips to help you get the most out of your conference experience:

Before the Event

1. Set goals for the event. Think about what you hope to gain from your attendance at the conference. Be specific and write it down! Consider your goals for specific content areas, specific questions you hope to have answered, the number and kinds of people you want to meet and/or amount of new ideas you hope to gain.

2. Review and research speakers. Do some research on some of the speakers you believe you are interested in hearing in advance. Review some of their work, projects and committees they have been a part of, and the organizations they work for.

3. Pre-plan sessions. Scout the session schedule beforehand and highlight the sessions most relevant to the problem you are trying to solve and what you are interested in learning more about.

At the Conference

4. Note what you don’t know. Make a “to research” list during sessions for thoughts, buzzwords or acronyms to review later. Trying to soak in every concept will distract you from your primary objective.

5. Observe innovation. Look for emerging trends and inspiring new ideas to consider in addition to your problem-solving. This is a great time to learn new best practices for possible adoption.

6. Make time to meet people. Take time for genuine, in-depth conversations with peers, and jot down notes on business cards. Don’t try to meet everyone; instead focus on meeting fewer, more relevant contacts,
including competitors.

7. Pace yourself.  Get some sleep, eat right to keep energy up and take time to step outside and breathe between sessions. Don’t get overwhelmed and enjoy the atmosphere.

After the Show

8. Take time to digest. Schedule necessary time after the conference to review the notes and materials you collected while ideas and information are still fresh and top of mind.

9. Follow up with contacts. Take the time to send any new contacts a card or email. Doing so helps your next conference be even more productive plus builds your personal reference library of industry experts.

10. Create an action plan. Review your findings and information and formulate a plan to further investigate and evaluate these ideas. Share your knowledge with co-workers and/or fellow committee members who were not able to attend the conference.

View 2011 DCI Annual Conference details now!

5 Common Issues Cities Face & How to Tackle Them: Communications

12 Aug

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 five-part series, we will address specific areas to examine, as well as actual recommendations from recent technical assistance visits, for each of these common issues.

Communications
There is a reason that DCI’s technical assistance visits, whether a Main Street Resource Team or a Community Revitalization Partnership (CRP) visit, spend an entire day dedicated to focus groups. These focus groups are composed of local government representatives, business and property owners, residents, reps from area organizations, chambers, etc. It is important to know the perception as well as the reality of a community.

Consider the following:

  • Are you communicating with other organizations or entities to collaborate and maximize resources? Make a list of the other organizations or entities (e.g., chambers, business groups, nonprofits) in the area. Then, sit down and talk with them to find out if there are areas where you can collaborate and/or your efforts overlap.
  • Are you communicating with your local businesses to determine types of assistance needed, local perceptions, etc.? Get out there and talk to the business owners. You may be surprised by what you learn.
  • Are you communicating with residents and the general public? Sometimes this is through media outlets, sometimes this means scheduling a time that average citizens can discuss their concerns. One community we know held a monthly “Coffee with the City Manager” at the local coffeehouse, where any concerned citizen could show up to discuss issues.

Below are some actual communications recommendations from recent DCI/DOLA technical assistance visits:

  • Create one point of contact for individuals to find out information about your commercial district. Consider creating a clearing house of information on every business, government services, organization’s events, contact information, etc. This contact would be a liaison to the commercial district and expert on who to contact to find a business, open a business, training for your business, etc. The major purpose of this recommendation is to make it easy for customers, business owners, property owners, partners, etc. to spend money, open a business, or collaborate with other businesses.
  • Reach out to new or untapped audiences of residents. Downtowns must reach out to all segments of the community and engage these groups in the process of revitalizing downtown. Make a list of groups and contacts that can play a role, whether that role is downtown user, sponsor, or partner. Plan messages to underserved groups, including families, seniors, ethnic groups, and youth. All community groups need to understand the identity of downtown and their role in downtown. All can maintain unique identities and still work toward the same goal.

Technical Assistance Visits

We hope these questions and recommendations will get you thinking from a new perspective about approaching communications within 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.

The New Economic Reality: Tips for Evolving with the Changing Times

12 Aug

We’re getting very excited about our upcoming conference in Glenwood Springs, Downtown Trends: Essential Community Responses to the New Economic Reality (REGISTER HERE!) on September 22-24 in Glenwood Springs. It didn’t take us very long to come up with the theme of this year’s conference. We collaborate frequently with a number of amazing downtown revitalization consultants and organizations, and the same issue kept coming up with communities: Our economic reality has changed, yet we often continue to do things “the old way,” because that’s what we have always done. But times are evolving and community leaders need to evolve with them.

Collaboration Is Key

Are multiple organizations undertaking similar initiatives in your community? Partnership and collaboration are key to efficient utilization of community resources. Collaboration conserves personnel and monetary resources by reducing duplication and encouraging partnership for planning use of resources. Now more than ever, communities need to take note of who they can partner with for the sake of efficiency.

Are other organizations tackling similar goals? Do not reinvent the wheel. Make a list of all of all possible stakeholders in your downtown; think about local business groups, nonprofits, area chamber, libraries, schools, local business enterprises, historical societies, religious communities, ethnic communities, and any other resident groups. Communicate with them and see how you can work together.

Who can you connect with to develop a volunteer program? There may be two segments of the population you are overlooking: students and seniors.  The youth and senior populations can make valuable contributions to the community by providing a volunteer corps with expertise, information, able bodies, and energy. Seniors can additionally bring and tech-savvy students can assist with website maintenance and social media management, amongst other things.

Remember, you all have the same end goal in mind…creating a lively and prosperous downtown for everyone!

Use What You’ve Got—Know Your Assets

Very frequently communities can have a hard time seeing that something is an asset because they are too close to it. In fact, our technical assistance teams often see resources that are not being utilized because they are viewed as an asset rather than a liability.

One example of a frequently underutilized asset in this economy is empty storefronts. How is that a goo thing? You ask. Aren’t they blight in our downtowns? Well, they certainly don’t have to be.  Communities can work with property owners to utilize those vacant stores by hosting temporary events (e.g., art exhibits, showcase of local products). These events not create activity and builds traffic, thereby enlivening the downtown, but they also create opportunities for the potential stores to visit the building and envision their business there.

In housing real estate, agents always encourage “staging,” where homeowners are encouraged to create a welcoming atmosphere that potential buyers can envision living in. Using your empty storefronts for events works on the same theory…won’t a potential business owner be more enticed to if you show them the wonderful potential of the space?

More Responses to the New Economic Reality: Fundraising, Downtown Management, and Destination Development

We are very excited to debut our Essential Community Responses to the New Economic Reality Speaker series at this year’s annual conference! Throughout the conference these plenary sessions will feature a distinguished panel of speakers with each addressing how communities should react in the current economic climate through the perspective of their individual area of expertise. Speakers include Roger Brooks, Destination Development (downtown destination development); Sylvia Allen, Allen Consulting (fundraising); and Brad Segal, Progressive Urban Management Associates (downtown management).

Click here to register for the conference or view schedule and details.

Katherine Correll is the executive director of Downtown Colorado, Inc.