The article about Danville, PA that we just added to our Revitalization Library got me thinking about very specific actions that Pottstown might want to consider now.
Why not take the $45,000 remaining after painting the Mrs. Smith’s building brick red and apply it to QUANTIFIABLE & VISIBLE ACTIONS to improve Pottstown’s downtown?
High Street is THE face of Pottstown. People take one look and make a snap judgment, maybe without even getting out of their cars. Pretty soon High Street is going to be beautifully illuminated. Now is the time to press any advantage to be gained from that, coordinate resources, and put out a blitz of tried-and-true downtown economic development strategies.
1) I’ve heard from several sources that there was a downtown site inventory/survey started or completed as follow-up to the Economic Development Strategic Plan. Where is it? Resurrect & update it. Find a simple, clean, attractive, inexpensive way to create an online database with key information about vacant properties that are available for sale or rent; allow for uploading of photos. Call upon Montgomery County Community College’s new urban planning students to help with site inventory and in getting additional info from local realtors and the county’s property records database. Input the data and unveil a new downtown district marketing tool via PDIDA’s website.
2) Determine the vacancy rate in the downtown and set a goal for getting X number of additional storefronts occupied within 6 months. Use some of the $45K to create a rent subsidy/marketing incentives package to attract new businesses that have solid business plans. Include existing businesses in the marketing plans. (I don’t know what PDIDA’s budget is, but I’m pretty sure it needs more resources to get its job done.)
3) There is this wonderful resource for new and existing business owners right in the New York Plaza building at 244 High Street: SCORE. They’re a non-profit business mentoring association that gets funding from the U.S. Small Business Association. Four times a year they offer a workshop seriesto help with all aspects of running a business. They offer other courses as well, all of which are taught by experienced professionals who volunteer their time to share their knowledge. Use some of the $45K to fund partial scholarships for new Pottstown-based businesses and nearly-full scholarships for existing business owners.
Imagine the messages the Borough could pretty quickly & easily send to the business world:
1) Here’s our downtown property inventory; we want to help you find the space that works for your business.
2) If you have a solid business plan, we will help with the rent during a pre-determined start-up phase.
3) We help promote all our businesses.
4) We will fund training workshops and introduce you to a network of business professionals to help you succeed.
5) By the time the 2011 First Saturdays start up again, there will be a VISIBLE difference in the downtown.
6) By coordinating the expertise already in the community, we can make $45K go a long way.
High Street is how the outside world judges you.At some point, you gotta put on your full-court press.
(Ideally, along a parallel path, the Borough would be doing the same thing for its industrial sites, including facilitating brownfield clean-up & marketing the sites nationwide, even internationally. I’d put an emphasis on green manufacturing and renewable energy tech companies, but that’s just me.)