First steps toward revitalization

By Jason Miller
posted 10.10.11

A group of 20 business owners from the Concrete area met Sept. 9 to discuss economic development in Concrete Town Center and the surrounding region.

Facilitating the Concrete Main Street Revitalization Workshop was Eric Archuletta of Community Stew, the Arlington-based nonprofit organization to which Concrete Town Council recently gave the go-ahead—on Community Stew’s own dime—to develop a strategy for revitalizing Concrete’s economy. Archuletta focused on Concrete Town Center, calling it “the lynchpin to a community.”

“By revitalizing your Main Street, it gives people an opportunity to go there for one reason and stay for another,” he said. “If a town has a healthy Main Street, all businesses will profit from it and prosper because of it, even if they’re not on Main Street.”

Archuletta’s presentation discussed why Concrete should care about its town center, why a healthy Main Street is important, and what a healthy downtown core can do for a community.

A four-point method can revitalize Main Street, according to Archuletta, who holds a degree in environment and community:

  • Organize: Establish consensus and cooperation by building partnerships among the various groups that have a stake in Concrete’s Main Street.
  • Design: Get Main Street into top physical shape and create a safe, inviting environment for shoppers, workers, and visitors.
  • Promote: Sell the image and promise of Main Street to all prospects. Rekindle a positive image that will inspire community pride and improve consumer and investor confidence in the commercial district.
  • Economic restructuring: Fully understand the social and economic characteristics of the downtown and its trade area so as to implement a strategy that will retain existing businesses and recruit new businesses.

Archuletta laid out guiding principles and culture elements for attendees to consider moving forward; described the winning approach to economic development that the town of Independence, Ore., has taken; and discussed concepts like economic gardening, an entrepreneurial approach to economic development that seeks to grow the local economy from within.

Representatives from Concrete’s government and staff were conspicuously absent, attendees noted during the meeting. “Where is the town in this? Where are the council members?” asked one business owner.

That will need to change if Concrete expects to reach its full potential with regard to economic development, said Archuletta, adding that it is just one of three key players in a recipe for success.

The town should enforce its ordinances, such as building or public safety issues. It should examine its process and procedure for start-up businesses to determine if they’re cumbersome.

The Chamber of Commerce should create a network of support for its members, give them the information they need, and host appropriate workshops. It can help to create new entrepreneurs by giving them the information they need and making sure they have a good business plan that will keep them afloat instead of closing down in six months.

The locals should support the businesses. “People have to get it into their heads that buying local is beneficial to them,” said Archuletta. “There’s a perfectly good hardware store in downtown Concrete, but people have it in their heads that they have to go down to Home Depot to get something more cheaply. When you add up gas and time, however, it would be cheaper to buy local.

“Buying local creates more businesses and more jobs. If Cascade Supply has more people coming through its doors, the owners might have to hire one or two more employees. And maybe they start thinking about expanding,” said Archuletta.

“This is not just an idea,” he said. “The people at that meeting were engaged and ready to go to work.”

In October, Archuletta plans to form a steering committee to develop a plan that all stakeholders can follow. He will present the Sept. 9 content to the Concrete Chamber of Commerce on Oct. 13.

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