Monday, September 9, 2013

Fall IN!

Ah, September. 
Back to school. Cleaning out closets to find the fall clothes that the kids haven't outgrown, setting alarm clocks for the entire family and creating the fire drill that is known as "the bus is coming!"

September is also start up time for many service clubs and organizations to kick back into full gear now that members and volunteers are no longer on vacation. Time is at a premium--there's just so much to get done--and a limited number of free hours left after soccer games, football games, band practice and church committees.

For the Chamber, September is turbo charge time. With so much happening here's a quick reference check list to help you navigate.

1. Register to attend the Chamber's Annual Meeting Breakfast
This morning event is a fun membership appreciation event.  A great opportunity to network over a gourmet breakfast buffet at Oakhurst!  THURSDAY September 26, 2013 7:30 am

2. Sign up to volunteer at Taste of Clarkston. Shifts run as early as 6 a.m. and as late as 8 pm. Give 2-3 hours, wear your business logo shirt and connect with other business leaders while you serve the community.

3. Get your registration in for the November EXPO. Earlybird discount registration is going on now--Save money by planning ahead.

4. Get your registration in for the October Bulls Eye Business Conference. Three keynote speakers will be at this multi-chamber event at the end of October. The agenda includes networking time--so you get the most out of this event.

5. Update your chamber profile at You can include a current photo, company logo, list of services, discounts and member to member offers when you log in to Members Only.

And take heart. It does get better once we move into October. The routine of a carefully scheduled family calendar starts to sink in--and we get an extra hour when daylight savings time changes.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Why Downtowns are important

As you read this list of why downtowns are important, I'm sure you'll nod your head in agreement.  Yes, we know much of this. And we tend to take it for granted.  
However, good downtowns don't happen by happy accident. They are carefully cultivated and need continual reinvestment.

Why Downtowns are Important

Downtown is a symbol of:
  • Community economic health
  • Partnership between the private sector and the public sector
  • Local quality of life
  • Community pride
  • Community history
Downtown is important factor for industrial, commercial developers, and professional recruitment.
Downtown serves as a good incubator for new small businesses – the success of tomorrow. 
Downtown represents independent business which:
  • Support local families
  • Support local community projects such as teams and schools
  • Keep profits in town (chain stores send profits out of town)
Downtown helps reduce sprawl by concentrating activity in one area.
Downtown is a major employer
Downtown infrastructure is a major public investment. Only healthy businesses in buildings assessed at full value generate taxes that give taxpayers a return on this public investment.
Downtown revitalized protects property values in surrounding residential neighborhoods.
Downtown rehabilitation work stimulates the local economy. Materials and labor for new commercial construction often come from out of town.
Downtown is the heart of the community and the site for government, arts, churches, and financial institutions.
Downtown is an important community space where members of all segments of the community can meet equally for parades, speeches, and other community events.
Downtown can be a tourist attraction and is the location of a community’s unique businesses and buildings.
Downtown is where the arts and culture thrive.
--source Main Street National Trust for Historic Preservation

As we begin exploring the resources associated with Main Street Oakland County (the first County participant in Main Street National Trust for Historic Preservation in the nation, joining in 2000), the Chamber is interested in helping the City of the Village of Clarkston and the Hamlet of Davisburg participate in these programs.  We are asking what we can do better.

The City of the Village has 100% occupancy, nationally recognized restaurants, some great unique entrepreneurial shops--do we really need Main Street?

I believe that answer is yes.  Firmly and unequivocally. And here's why:

Let's start with what Main Street REALLY is all about.

Main Street utilizes a 4-point process that includes:

Organization--Organization establishes consensus and cooperation by building partnerships among the various groups that have a stake in the commercial district. By getting everyone working toward the same goal, your Main Street program can provide effective, ongoing management and advocacy for the downtown or neighborhood business district. Through volunteer recruitment and collaboration with partners representing a broad cross section of the community, your program can incorporate a wide range of perspectives into its efforts. A governing board of directors and standing committees make up the fundamental organizational structure of volunteer-driven revitalization programs. Volunteers are coordinated and supported by a paid program director. This structure not only divides the workload and clearly delineates responsibilities, but also builds consensus and cooperation among the various stakeholders.

Promotion takes many forms, but the goal is to create a positive image that will rekindle community pride and improve consumer and investor confidence in your commercial district. Advertising, retail promotions, special events, and marketing campaigns help sell the image and promise of Main Street to the community and surrounding region. Promotions communicate your commercial district's unique characteristics, business establishments, and activities to shoppers, investors, potential business and property owners, and visitors. 

Design means getting Main Street into top physical shape and creating a safe, inviting environment for shoppers, workers, and visitors. It takes advantage of the visual opportunities inherent in a commercial district by directing attention to all of its physical elements: public and private buildings, storefronts, signs, public spaces, parking areas, street furniture, public art, landscaping, merchandising, window displays, and promotional materials. An appealing atmosphere, created through attention to all of these visual elements, conveys a positive message about the commercial district and what it has to offer. Design activities also include instilling good maintenance practices in the commercial district, enhancing the district's physical appearance through the rehabilitation of historic buildings, encouraging appropriate new construction, developing sensitive design management systems, educating business and property owners about design quality, and long-term planning. 

Economic Restructuring--
Economic restructuring strengthens your community's existing economic assets while diversifying its economic base. This is accomplished by retaining and expanding successful businesses to provide a balanced commercial mix, sharpening the competitiveness and merchandising skills of business owners, and attracting new businesses that the market can support. Converting unused or underused commercial space into economically productive property also helps boost the profitability of the district. The goal is to build a commercial district that responds to the needs of today's consumers.

Some of these things are already being done well in Clarkston.  We can thank  the thoughtful guidance of our historic district commission and certain key business leaders.

Davisburg has unique infrastructure issues that will take longer to address, but there is a passion for preservation in Davisburg too.

If things are good in Clarkston right now?  Why change?

As Stephanie, from Essence on Main, recently told me, "During this two and a half minutes of good economy we need to do what we can to make sure we are in the best business position possible."

Never leave resources on the table
I have a philosophy that you never leave resources on the table.  Main Street creates a group of resources that are dedicated to support business.  These resources include dollars, but they also include expertise, volunteers, training and creating staunch advocates for SHOP LOCAL businesses.

Every community can benefit through collaboration and consensus building
I also argue that the process of Main Street--the focus on organization, collaboration, consensus building, involvement, engagement and transparency-- benefits  every community that utilizes it.  

We don't have to be afraid of Main Street
Main Street is NOT about converting residential homes to businesses, creating cookie cutter downtown templates or trumping community will. Remember-- Main Street is organized under the auspices of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Main Street does NOT give away jurisdiction and power to the County or another non-profit.  The City Council, Historic Commission, Planning Commission still all ordinances are still in place.

We are ready for Main Street
What Main Street DOES do is help us create an ideal vision for what Clarkston (and Davisburg) can be--and the tools to help get there.

Main Street is volunteer driven.  It is not big government. 

I believe in the power of dedicated volunteers.  I believe that shared vision is an essential part of creating not only a great downtown, but a great community.  I believe that we can be more than we currently are.