Working for the Cartersville DDA, she helps promote and enhance the downtown business district, which includes 165 properties inside the boundaries of Leake, Bartow, Tennessee and Main streets.
"I enjoy the interaction with tourists who visit the Welcome Center and hearing their reaction to visiting an incredible city with great shops, restaurants and museums," Hood said. "[I also enjoy] seeing new business owners succeed in opening their dream business downtown and their excitement as they open that first shipment to stock their shelves. I love the various retail seasons downtown from Valentine's Day to Christmas and everything in between and the excitement the retailers and restaurants have throughout the year. I [also] can walk out any door of our building and head to a great restaurant for lunch.
"The biggest challenge is always funding. We raise 50 percent of our budget each year. Every penny needed to produce a special event has to be raised through sponsorships or the event can't happen."
Name: Liz Hood
City of residence: Kingston
Family: Husband, Fred, married 21 years on Jan. 18; children, Josh Hood, Jennifer O'Sako, Megan Hood; grandchildren, Ryan O'Sako and Chandler, Makayla and Trenton Harrison. Roxie the dog, and Jack Black, our cat from the Etowah [Valley] Humane Society.
Occupation: Executive Director, Cartersville Downtown Development Authority/Main Street Program
Education: Bachelor of Science in journalism, Georgia Southern University; master's in public administration, Valdosta State University.
When did you become the executive director of the Cartersville Downtown Development Authority and why did you want to be a part of this agency?
A: I became director in 2003. I was approached by several of the downtown merchants who asked me to interview for the job. Going online to find out more about the Main Street Program on the state and national level, I became excited about the possibilities for the Cartersville program.
What is the purpose of the Cartersville DDA? What programs, services and/or events does it offer the merchants and community?
A: As a Georgia Main Street City and member of the National Main Street network, we follow the National Main Street Approach to Downtown Revitalization™. The four committees include: design, organization, promotions and economic restructuring. Many people are most familiar with the special events we produce, but we also work with new and existing businesses to restore/maintain the historic buildings downtown, provide low-interest loans for building renovation and purchase and oversee the downtown façade and sign grant program.
We staff the Cartersville Welcome Center at the Depot, market downtown, and hold seasonal special promotions for the merchants for Valentine's Day, Mother's Day/graduation/Father's Day, back to school and Christmas. We send out a daily menu featuring specials at downtown restaurants that is very popular and have a Facebook page: Fall in LOVE with Downtown Cartersville where you can get up-to-date info on what's happening downtown. Special events we produce include Tom Clayton Memorial Car Cruises (four), Downtown Summer Concert Series (four), Spring Taste of Cartersville and ART on the Square, Fall Taste of Cartersville, Downtown Trick or Treat, Downtown Open House and Candlelight Shopping, and the Annual Downtown Christmas Tree Lighting. We serve as on-site staff for any outdoor event held downtown. Groups have rented Friendship Plaza for 5K races, barbecue fundraisers, concerts, political rallies, family reunions and group events, plus civic clubs use our building for meetings.
How has Cartersville's downtown area been enhanced/changed during your tenure? What are your goals for the downtown in the next five or 10 years?
A: The downtown infrastructure is the most noticeable change with completion of streetscape projects for Main Street from Tennessee to Bartow streets, both Wall Street blocks and the fountain block. Seeing the old city fountain refabricated and installed was a great moment. Dozens of downtown building facades and interiors have been redone in the past nine years, and new construction joined downtown with the Integrity Plaza project and the Booth museum.
Goals: A covered grandstand in Friendship Plaza so this area could more easily be used by the public for weddings, concerts, etc. Replicating the streetscape design on Main Street throughout the rest of the downtown business district, including South Museum Drive and Leake Street. Finding ways to incorporate outdoor art throughout the downtown district. Continuing to find ways to make downtown more pedestrian friendly. Ongoing beautification of the district, the list goes on and on. Our downtown is not something we can say "everything is finished," it's an ongoing process to maintain and update as needed.
Are there any new types of businesses that you feel could benefit downtown?
A: Taking a look at outshopping (shopping sales outside of Bartow County), we lose millions each year on clothing, entertainment and food sales. For shoes alone, over $800,000 in shoe sales are outside Bartow County. Tourism has increased dramatically with the opening of the Booth museum, hundreds of out-of-towners attend performances at The Grand Theatre and Legion Theatre, so there are opportunities for more retail, clothing and souvenir sales. More housing downtown and surrounding downtown will help increase downtown's vitality as those residents shop, dine and support the arts. [I would like to see] a shoe store, jewelry store, candy store, more retail and activity-based businesses, especially for children and youth.
What is your greatest professional and/or personal achievement?
A: I'm serving this year as vice president of the Georgia Downtown Association and will serve as president next year. With state funding and staffing cutbacks, it's important to work together to promote our region and state and we have begun a statewide mentoring program matching senior managers with new managers. Personally, it's exciting to see consumers understand how important it is for our local economy that we shop locally. Our small businesses are successful when we choose to shop and dine in our local communities and encourage our friends and neighbors to do the same.
How would you describe yourself in three words?
A: Creative, curious, self-starter.
What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
A: I'm a freelance food and travel writer.
What is your favorite meal or Bartow County restaurant?
A: I rotate my way through downtown restaurants each month. I love the variety we have downtown from great salads, to the best chicken salad around, cheeseburgers, fried catfish, Italian, soups, seafood, steaks and sandwiches. Several of the restaurants even call me when they have my favorite specials on the menu.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
A: Hike Pine Mountain, garden, try new recipes.
Where is your favorite place to be in Bartow County?
A: Downtown Cartersville.