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.

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