Part 2: Leading Downtown in Challenging Times

Downtown leaders must find ways to help businesses through these tough times.

Local governments and downtown organizations may be facing their own economic pressures, so increasing loan and grant money may not be an option. But reduced business fees, free peer counseling, help with advertising, and keeping business owners informed about funding sources can help.

The previous issue discussed these ideas and more. Below are tips six through 10.

Tip #6. Host an online business development symposium
In times of difficulty, small businesses will be more open than ever to work together. This is the time to capitalize on the collective power of downtown by asking business owners to come together to brainstorm strategic actions that downtown can take to boost business.

Tip #7. Encourage the use of cooperative advertising, marketing, and social media
One important collective action that downtown businesses can take is joint advertising and promotions to encourage people to shop locally, dine locally, and vacation locally. This approach can cost less and make a bigger impact than individual marketing efforts.

Tip #8. Engage the public
In trying times, people crave a sense of home, hope, and stability. Historic downtowns and commercial corridors offer that feeling and visible structural stability. Engage the public in every aspect of recovery planning. When people are part of making change, they will have a greater sense of ownership in their downtown’s health and success.

Tip #9. Plan for the return of events
Downtown festivals and events will return, but they must be more tightly budgeted and better planned than ever. Traditional downtown events, which embrace the community’s authentic identity will draw attention, visitors, and customers.

Tip #10. Project a positive attitude
Be positive and encourage all downtown stakeholders to be positive with their staff, customers, and especially the press. All of your efforts can be derailed if an individual business owner gives an interview to a newspaper or news website about how horrible it is downtown, how no one is coming downtown, etc. This is something that businesses need to be reminded of frequently.

Next week, more ideas on leading downtowns in challenging times.

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