Q) What has Main Street accomplished that could not have been done by the City?
A) This is actually a sort of complex question, and subsequently response. Note number one - we are actually part of the city, in a sense. The Grayling Main Street program is a part of the Downtown Development Authority (DDA), which is a Board of volunteers appointed by the City Manager/City Council that is similar to the Parks and Recreation Committee or the Planning Commission. Our budget is overseen and expenses recorded by the City of Grayling clerk/treasurer, the director's salary and benefits are handled through payroll with the city (technically a city employee), and changes to our district boarders/by-laws/budget are subject to review and approval by the city council. Note number two - there should be a distinction made before we continue this conversation between city staff and volunteer boards and committees within city government. The DDA was/is a volunteer Board for a district in Grayling (Downtown). City staff has little control over what boards and committees do, other than professional advisement, suggestions, and actual implementation after approval. That being said the city staff, city council, and the DDA Board (pre-GMSt) should not be grouped together, as they have different roles and responsibilities.
With those two things in mind, what sets GMSt apart is our commitment to Michigan Main Street Center and National Main Street Center to follow their model and report results in accordance with their standards and methods. That is what we agreed to do when we asked for help and were accepted into their organizations. The DDA existed, and as such, economic development fell into their arena per se. Although, they did not, at the time, have the resources to develop the community like business owners and community members were interested in. The DDA was maintaining the current downtown, but not highly active in ongoing development. A member of the community, and interested downtown party, approached both the city manager and the city council with resources and opportunities to develop Downtown Grayling and build the community into a thriving economic center. When presented with development program options both the city manager and city council chose to pursue the Main Street model, or the Four Point Approach as it is also known. When we decided to engage with the Main Street programs we chose to combine the DDA and Main Street Boards, as is common in many communities. We were also provided, what is essentially, a road map to economic development and sustainability. At that point the "city" got all the resources they needed to develop Grayling and help it grow.
So, the "simple" answer is nothing and everything. Everything GMSt does could have theoretically been done by the city, but that is also not the whole truth of the matter. The resources, model, and guidance provided though the Main Street program were not in our community, and frankly, would have been very difficult for a group of volunteers, or even staff, to collect and utilize with great success. It would have taken much longer, or been much more expensive to hire consultants, to make the progress we have been able to make in the last 3 years as a volunteer organization.
Q) What is “enhanced market research services for the Grayling region”
A) The technical assistance that Grayling was provided via PRT was combined with the Branding and Marketing Services awarded to GMSt and we received a leakage report for the community including information regarding housing needs, business needs, and business sustainability (if our community can support a particular kind of business). These are services that were specific to Grayling when combining services like PRT technical assistance with Branding/Marketing making each service more valuable to the community.
Q) Has Main Street brought any new businesses to town during the first three years?
A) This is a tricky one. New businesses have opened since Main Street was formed, but I cannot say with any definitive confidence that they opened because of Main Street being here, only that we are a part of this district and thus have some sort of influence on the decisions to open here. As a point of clarification, we are in the middle of our third year, we have not completed three years here, we have only completed 2.5 years. We have had an influence on the look of the downtown area, with support from groups like GPA, as well as offered information about the area, and shared perks to being in the Main Street district (Design services, help with grant application, training opportunities, event marketing and execution bringing customers downtown). In the past 2.5 years, particularly this past year, we have assisted development of a marketing packet (again with PRT) and the new logos will contribute to the marketing of our community and downtown, attracting more businesses (in theory) in conjunction with the work being done to become a certified Redevelopment Ready Community (RRC). When those tactics are fully implemented it will be more clear cut as to if a business came to Main Street because of an invitation extended by GMSt... but this is also an initiative that we are partnering with the city/PRT on so at the end of the day it would really be a collaborative effort, we are focusing on the Downtown area to begin with though.
Q) Why is Grayling Main Street so involved with PRT?
A) One of the driving forces for the Main Street program in Grayling is to grow the local economy by stimulating the downtown business district and preserving the rich history of our community. While we utilize a wide range of tactics and resources to do this the most important element of our efforts is community collaboration. Because we are a volunteer based organization we must be diligent in finding ways to actualize our efforts with minimal expense and taxation of the local resources. PRT is a way for us to combine forces and better leverage available resources for the greatest impact with the least drain on the community. We are using the skills and expertise offered through PRT to develop programs, tools, and maps that will be user friendly for our volunteers, resulting in grand change in our community in a shorter time frame. No need to re-invent the wheel when we have some of the greatest wheel makers in our corner willing to help!
Q) How many businesses have been approved for design services? (and is that the same thing as façade grants?) If not, how many businesses have been awarded façade grants?
A) So far I believe 4 businesses have received design services, and 3 more are currently approved and waiting on the visit from Michigan Main Street's (MMS) architect to measure and begin drafting. There is one active application that is not approved yet because it was just started this week. Design services are not the same as facade grants. Design Services from MMS are not a requirement for receiving a facade grant. You actually don't have to be in a downtown or Main Street district at all, it is merely a cost saver and helps to get business applicants through the process a little faster. Part of the grant application is submitting a rendering from a certified architect, and having it approved by SHPO (if you are in a historic district or Main Street district), and because the architect from MMS is both certified and a part of SHPO, two birds are handled with one stone, and it didn't cost the business/property owner anything :) Two businesses in the DDA have been awarded facade grants, Old AuSable Fly Shop and Bear's Den, although, both of those grants were awarded while Grayling was an Associate Level community, before we established an office or completed organizational setup. Since organizing (becoming select level), we have not had enough interested businesses at any given time, until now. The grant proposal must have two or more substantial upgrades in order for us to submit. We are currently compiling appropriate/required information from four Main Street businesses to submit a facade grant proposal in the spring (target is early March) pending the completion of design services.
Q) What is Project Rising Tide (PRT)?
A) Project Rising Tide (PRT) is an initiative from Governor Snyder's office that provides technical assistance to rural communities in Michigan with the ultimate goal of providing local organizations and municipalities with the tools to help themselves grow economically. The Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) Community Assistance Team (CATeam) Specialists spend time with each community collecting input from residents and other local stakeholders in order to identify projects the community should, and are able to, make changes to. Project Rising tide is essentially an overflowing economic development toolbox that is being handed to the selected communities.
Q) How many events have you put on with how many non-locals attending? (approx.)
A) In the 2016 calendar year we hosted 7 events that drew crowds to downtown, that does not include one-time seminars, meetings/informational events (community input sessions), or Main Street Mondays (which in November did attract a non-Grayling resident), Thank You Grayling Stroll, and the Donor Appreciation event that are geared toward just locals (mostly) but also see some non-local visitors. I would approximate we saw 3000 non-local attendees this year, but it really is hard to tell. Our organization has not developed/implemented tracking for this type of data. As an economic development organization, we are not particularly concerned with the home location of attendees, but with showing anyone who comes to our downtown (locals and tourists alike) what it has to offer (shopping, dining, entertainment, services) and encouraging a return visit to spend money downtown instead of somewhere else. With events like Christmas Walk, Harvest Fest, and Back 2 The Bricks Car Show there is little way to track the number of visitors to downtown other than word of mouth, business estimates/sales, and visual estimates. With Girls Night Out its a little easier as we have a registration table and products that we use to estimate attendance. Paddle Battle was incredibly successful as far as having a good turn out, but again numbers were not recorded well due to the unexpectedly low participation in the betting. Funky Fish saw more locals than non-locals but there were some "tourists" there, because of the lower turn out were actually able to talk to people as they came in about how they heard about the event and where they came from. For both Paddle Battle and Funky Fish being first year events they had respectable turn outs.
I would like to note that Grayling Main Street is not just about getting tourists and residents downtown for festivals and events, we want everyone downtown all the time! A driving part of our program is about creating a destination/location that people come to, not because of an event, but, because we have something they can't get somewhere else, or because we give it to them better/closer than someplace else. Events and festivals are a great way to get us in their mind, give them an excuse to come the first time (and to come back again), but we aren't just party planners, we are economic developers. That means looking for opportunities to improve long term odds. Thank you for allowing me to expound upon the purpose of our organization, I want to make sure that you, and anyone you share this with, understands the bigger picture to hosting events, they are an economic development tool that we utilize to achieve our goals and fulfill our mission.
Recently Asked Questions
Q) What is “enhanced branding of the Grayling destination beyond downtown”
A) We advocated for an extension of our Branding and Marketing service award to the city and community; this was also a collaborative effort with the PRT steering committee. Because we were branding downtown and main street as an organization, it made sense to also brand the city and community as a destination to get the most bang for our bucks (service was free but future marketing dollars will have increased benefit). Having a concerted image/color/look will make Grayling promotions from any entity more recognizable, create a better sense of community, and eventually improve brand recognition of the area.
In this section we will share responses to recently, and frequently, asked questions. We're sure there are loads of things you are curious about or don't quite understand about what GMSt does, why we do it, or how we do it. We would like to encourage you to send your questions in and get them answered!
You can go to our Contact Us page and send a message that way, shoot an email directly to the Director, at DowntownGrayling@gmail.com, give the Director a call at (989) 390 7689, or stop by the office, we are located in the Chamber of Commerce building at Grayling City Park, and we LOVE visitors!
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