DDA resumes economic developer search

Board votes to dissolve ‘Main Street’ designation

During its meeting Tuesday, the Manistee Main Street Downtown Development Authority voted to resume its search for an economic developer and to dissolve its "Main Street" designation. (Sean Bradley/News Advocate)

During its meeting Tuesday, the Manistee Main Street Downtown Development Authority voted to resume its search for an economic developer and to dissolve its “Main Street” designation. (Sean Bradley/News Advocate)

MANISTEE — The Manistee Downtown Development Authority (DDA) made two decisions during its meeting Tuesday that will have a significant impact on its future.

First, the DDA board voted 8-0 to resume its search for an economic developer and suspend investigating collaboration with both the Alliance for Economic Success (AES) and the Manistee Area Chamber of Commerce. Board member Brandon Ball was not present for the meeting.

REAU

REAU

The board scheduled a special meeting to discuss the search at 5:30 p.m. on June 14 in the conference room on the second floor of Manistee City Hall, located at 70 Maple St.

“Under the collaboration, we were looking to outsource some of our administrative services to the Chamber, and outsource —with direction and performance standards — the potential hiring of an economic development person for the downtown district with AES (Alliance for Economic Success),” said Jeff Reau, acting MSDDA chair.

At its May 18 meeting, the board voted to separate into two subcommittees to investigate creating agreements with AES or the Chamber.

“As those two committees met, and as conversation developed, it really made sense for us to just focus on hiring an economic development person ourselves that would be 100 percent focused on the downtown district to help us achieve our strategic objective of 100 percent residential mixed use occupancy,” Reau said.

MSDDA treasurer Valarie Bergstrom said the desired skill-sets for an economic development person will be fleshed out more by the board at its next meeting.

Reau said the resumed search would bring the organization back toward what a traditional DDA does.

“We were operating as a DDA but operating a ‘Main Street’ board in addition to that, so we would lose the ‘Main Street’ part and we wouldn’t be accredited by ‘Main Street’ and we wouldn’t have access to some of their services — limited in nature at this point, but there are some benefits,” Reau said.

The second decision was the board’s 8-0 vote to not to maintain its “Main Street” designation going forward, which Reau discussed after the meeting.

“There are a lot of reporting requirements to maintain the ‘Main Street’ designation and, in addition to that, it requires us to make sure we’re focusing very equally in all areas, both marketing and promotions, design, organization — which is volunteer recruitment and fundraising,” Reau said. “We, as a board, feel as though more appropriate use of our funds and our time will be devoted more heavily toward economic development.”

According to the Michigan Main Street Center website, the “Main Street” designation — obtained by Manistee’s DDA in 2008 — is a preservation-based economic development tool enabling communities to revitalize their downtown and neighborhood business districts by leveraging local assets such as historic, cultural, and architectural resources, among others.

The DDA obtained a “master level” designation after completing five years in the “selected level” program, which it is required to do, according to the website.

Reau said the DDA will still maintain the “Main Street” four-point approach, which encompasses organization, design, economic restructuring and promotion committees.

He said the focus on economic development doesn’t fit well with what the “Main Street” designation is for the downtown district.

However, board member and mayor Colleen Kenny said if the “Main Street” designation is not maintained, people might question if the DDA would not hold its events or if it would continue having the committees.

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Posted by Sean Bradley

Sean is the city and cops and courts reporter for the News Advocate, he also is in charge of the entertainment and Reasons to Celebrate pages. He can be reached at (231) 398-3109 or sbradley@pioneergroup.com.

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