Patrick Kay takes the DDA reins

Patrick Kay moved to Manistee in November to lead the Manistee Main Street/Downtown Development Authority.

Patrick Kay moved to Manistee in November to lead the Manistee Main Street/Downtown Development Authority.

MANISTEE — After bouncing across the country several times directing numerous downtowns, South Carolina native Patrick Kay has landed in Manistee as the director of the Manistee Main Street/Downtown Development Authority.

Kay has worked as a real estate appraiser, economic development staff and a marketer for commercial flooring. In Anderson, S.C., Kay worked with his father to develop more than 50,000 square feet of property downtown. After that venture, he worked as a downtown director in Brunswick, Md. and Middletown, Ohio. He moved to Manistee in November to begin work as the MSDDA director.

The Manistee News Advocate recently sat down with Kay to discuss his goals for Manistee’s downtown.

MNA: How is the job going so far?

KAY: I’ve enjoyed it. It’s a different type of challenge and a different kind of system here. One of the big things that I’m transitioning to is that I’ve always had to work and fund raise for my entire budget. Here, the entire budget is paid for by the tax increment financing. That’s a big change for me.

One of the reasons the DDA board hired me is that they want to expand so we are not just relying on the TIF, but that we have other avenues of income. That’s what I’m working on.

MNA: What are your impressions of Manistee, and specifically the downtown?

KAY: I’ve been very impressed with it. It’s really interesting because people will say that the downtown is dead and there are all of these vacant storefronts. I’ve been to other towns across the country and seen a heck of a lot worse. What we have here is actually really great for the town’s size.

For 6,500 people, the things that we have — shops, restaurants — in the downtown and the developers who are actually doing stuff here is 10 times what a normal town of our size is doing.

We have really great restaurants downtown, and the Ramsdell Inn is a really nice place. I know places that are just dying to have a boutique style hotel downtown. The fact that it’s already here in a historic building is just incredible. For a size town that we have, five quality restaurants is really good. I’d like to see more and more different types of businesses down here.

MNA: What are you working on right now?

I’m trying to tighten up (the budget) a little bit. Because I’m used to running a budget that’s $50,000 to $150,000, I’m trying to (ask) if we are getting the best prices to make sure that we are financially in line. To me, saving a couple hundred dollars here and there is big. Those are dollars that we can invest in other projects downtown or invest in more things for downtown is very key to me.

I’m big on “building the toolbox.” In the toolbox right now we have facade grants, micro loans and various other incentives to bring people in. For us to be able to pull out of that toolbox education, money, experience, staff and buildings, is really what we’re working on right now. There’s a lot of different tools out there, and I think one of the biggest things we’re running into is realizing what’s out there and making sure we know about it.

The Manistee Main Street/Downtown Development Authority hosts several events a year, including annual sidewalk sales.

The Manistee Main Street/Downtown Development Authority hosts several events a year, including annual sidewalk sales.

MNA: What are some of your short and long term goals?

We’re looking to recruit a microbrewery up here. Michigan is well known throughout the country as being the highest per capita of breweries in the country. I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be (successful here).

I want to try to encourage the attendance of some of the events and take them to the next level. If the board approves it, and we get community support, I want to double if not triple the size of Hops & Props.

I want to turn it into a full-scale beer festival and boat show. I’m not saying I don’t like the Century Boats. I think that’s awesome. But, what I want to do is talk to Tiara in Holland and talk to Onekama Marine and companies all over the region to make it a nationally-known boat show. On top of that, not just be satisfied with four to six microbreweries, but get 20, or 30 or 50 to make it a key location on the beer festival scene.

Also, even though we have gone 25 years on the Sleighbell festival, I think there are some things we can tweak and make a little better.

(I also want to) try to identify developers in the area to come out here. If we can’t, use the DDA’s land acquisition fund so that if we aren’t seeing the projects happen, we make them happen ourselves.

A lot of projects, for instance, the unfinished condos on Maple Street and the North Channel Outlet, need to be addressed.

That’s the direction that I want to go in. I know it sounds all inclusive, (but) I think with the board, the committees and the people that I’ve talked to so far, I don’t see any issues with being able to do it.

MNA: Do you think downtown Manistee is moving in the right direction?

KAY: I think what Travis Alden has done already, and what the board, the community members and volunteers have done has been great. One thing that I kind of like about this, is that with the work that has already been done by Travis and the rest of the group, it’s giving me the opportunity to springboard off beyond what’s been done so far.

MNA: What is your interaction with the DDA’s committees and other groups in Manistee?

KAY: I go to all four committee meetings. I go to all of the board meetings and I try to go to city council meetings, county commission meetings and other things that are going on. I intend to, as time goes on, do presentations at local organizations like Rotary.

MNA: What has your interaction been like with downtown merchants?

KAY: According to the list that I’ve gotten from Travis, there are roughly 130 businesses within the downtown corridor. As of (Dec. 19), I’ve spoken to more than 50 (business owners). I’m trying to get to know all of the rest of them by the first of January. I’m going in and talking to them. That’s what the DDA is there for, the downtown merchants.

If they aren’t happy with something we’re doing, then we need to address that. We’re not necessarily here for community activities or community events. We’re here for the businesses.

MNA: With the Vogue Theatre recently opening, how will that project impact downtown Manistee?

KAY: I think especially with Travis Alden being a previous director here and then going to the Vogue Theatre, there will definitely be work done together. The Vogue is and always will be a major key anchor for downtown.

Having that theater down there, and having evening movies, creates a whole new atmosphere and a steady traffic flow between 7 and 10 p.m. There will be people looking for dinner or drinks before they go in.

MNA: Is there anything else you want to add?

KAY: I would just have people stay tuned for what’s about to happen. I would encourage anyone who wants a say or some type of involvement, to come down and do something. If you want to help or want to serve, we’re definitely an organization to be a part of.

 

 

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Posted by Eric Sagonowsky

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