Iowa City, IA, the Iowa City Downtown District is testing novel ways to serve existing merchants and recruit new ones.
In one successful strategy, the Downtown District runs its own delivery service. It leases a vehicle and pays a driver, and deliveries are free to customers within a 15-mile radius of downtown.
In another program that hasn’t quite taken off yet, the Iowa City Downtown District promises referral bonuses to anyone who helps recruit merchants.
The concept is that local residents can recommend retailers that downtown staff might not have identified in their research.
Both programs are a nod to the difficulties of recruiting businesses to mid-sized downtowns. Not that Iowa City is struggling with vacancies. It’s just that downtown leaders want to keep the pipeline full in case a merchant moves.
Other retail incentives from the Iowa City Downtown District include grants for signs and matching grants to existing businesses for upgrades and storefront enhancements.
There’s also a holiday pop-up shop on the pedestrian mall in November and December.
More on the delivery service and retail referral program appear in the January issue of Downtown Idea Exchange newsletter. Click to learn more about Downtown Idea Exchange and other resources for revitalizing downtowns and commercial corridors.