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.
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.