DDA Manager Tara Currier presented a reflection on 2012, one she called a year of reorganization, and looked forward to 2013 with goals and a renewed focus for DDA volunteer committees.
“It is a new day at Cartersville Downtown Development Authority. The staff and the board, we are so excited about what we have planned for this year,” Currier said. “Many of you may be aware of the reorganization and restructure the DDA went through last summer. We are now a full city of Cartersville department, which is, I think, a great benefit to the authority.”
Now under the city’s umbrella, the DDA is retooling and refocusing with board members recently attending a training course for downtown development programs. The DDA will model efforts around the National Main Street Program, a marketing and organizational tool for downtown development authorities.
At Tuesday’s meeting, Currier began her presentation with a background and overview of the authority.
“The Cartersville Downtown Development Authority was started in 1981 and it really is meant to preserve our central business district,” she said. “In the Southeast, downtowns were the central business district for many years, and in a lot of places, they’re still the top employer. It’s where you remember going to the drug store and the downtown soda shop. So downtown development authorities are meant to preserve that, to preserve not only the historic charm, but also to preserve the economic prosperity and vitality of our downtowns.”
In the mission to attract business, the DDA saw positive growth in 2012 with the addition of a dozen new businesses to the downtown area. Downtown districts, as used for DDA designation, are defined and governed by the state legislature in accordance to the Georgia Downtown Development Authority Act. Cartersville’s current downtown district includes more than 100 businesses from many sectors and industries.
“In 2012, we welcomed a lot of new businesses downtown and think it’s a sign of the times that things are getting better in the economy,” Currier said. “Unfortunately we are still seeing businesses close — one just as recently as a couple weeks ago with Trends by Stiles, but we welcomed 12 new businesses downtown in 2012, ranging from service providers to restaurants and retailers.
“Even though we were in a year of reorganization, we still did a lot of things to bring people to downtown — to get feet in the streets. ... That’s one of our main objectives, is to get people downtown and into your businesses.”
In addition to the new businesses added downtown, there also were six businesses able to take advantage of Business Improvement District Sign and Facade Grants. Due to their location within a designated business improvement district, which with it entails a higher millage rate, downtown businesses can apply for grants to help pay for signage and facade improvements.
Another goal of the 2013 action plan is to secure proper directional signs to direct visitors toward the historic downtown district. Trouble has been had in the past due to strict sign allowances on state routes.
Wrapping up the annual meeting was the recognition of efforts from volunteers and board members, past and present. DDA Board Chair Nancy Jackson of Jax Supply, along with Lynn Quick of Professional Accounting Service, recognized Peggy Finchum, wife of the late DDA Chairman Harry Finchum, “in grateful appreciation for sharing Harry’s outstanding service and leadership.”
“Most of you know that we lost our chairman, Harry Finchum, on Oct. 23,” Jackson said. “Harry was a beloved fixture of downtown. He was a man of humor and integrity. He spent many hours at the depot checking to see what needed to be done, hanging banners, delivering fliers. During this time, Harry was at every event, including introducing Tara to the community at our last car show.
“When Harry became ill, he continued to be very concerned about downtown. Just a few days before his death while he was in hospice, Harry apologized for not attending the last board meetings and asked for a copy of the agenda from the board meeting he missed that morning.”
Also recognized were the volunteers that help the DDA with annual events, such as the Christmas tree lighting, car shows, summer concerts and Sample Your City. Among those named was Volunteer of the Year Sherry Moore.
The Cartersville DDA is looking for more volunteers to fill new and growing committees to help carry out the 2013 work plan. Committee members are needed for the outreach committee, promotion committee, design committee and the economic restructuring committee.
For more information, visit the DDA office in the Cartersville train depot at 1 Friendship Plaza or call 770-607-3480.