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The March Toward Main Street

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    As promised, the Sandpoint Business Association (SBA) has stepped off in the New Year with the first of many opportunities for direct feedback on how to foster downtown revitalization. The year began with a meeting held on Wednesday, January 16th, at the Best Western, better known as the Edgewater. In the first half of the meeting, Lorraine Roach of the Hudson Group, presented an overview of downtown revitalization elements and a market analysis of downtown Sandpoint. The market analysis included such components as our strengths, character, anchor sites and activities, as well as the challenges. The information also reviewed area trends in tourism and similar market places. This was the second opportunity to see the presentation, Roach’s first presentation having been covered in both November issues of the TRJ, and approximately 30 people attended the morning meeting.

    The meeting broke after the morning presentation, and resumed at 2 p.m. that afternoon for an overview of potential action items designed to foster discussion on what to do, how to do it, and who should be involved. Discussion was fragmented but lively and ranged from what geographic area do we review as a valuable model to what is the impact of the Byway on downtown revitalization. Such divergence is expected as we all grapple with the larger issues – where is the economy going nationally? How will the State fare in the first quarter of 2002 with the Olympics about to begin? What kind of suggestions have been created? Which entities need to be involved? And what is their strongest suit or role in economic development? There are more questions than answers for many business owners, and we are deeply passionate and stressed about the Byway. It genuinely affects a person’s base line determination as to whether our community is moving forward or backward.

    However, in the world of Main Street creation, downtown revitalization and the development of a well rounded economy, sometimes you cannot master all of the major questions in one sitting.     One key point of Roach’s presentation was the vital necessity of a coherent marketing message about our area. The idea isn’t that we exclusively market one strength, natural resource or brand identification. The idea is teamwork – pulling the qualities of the area together as a seamless presentation that results in a positive message. I distinctly remember when Lisa Derr was President of the Greater Sandpoint Chamber of Commerce. I remember that no matter where I saw her or who she was addressing, she exemplified the warmth that Destination Sandpoint wished to portray as part of a visitor’s experience. She would say “I live in a postcard,” and I thought about that on and off for a long time. But when I look at the experiences my friends and family have when they come visit, it is exactly that image they carry away. Sandpoint is a place you can travel to and practically be guaranteed a great visit if you like to be outside. You can come in any season and find something to do. And there is nothing better than someone coming for the first time and remarking, “This is so different than I expected – I really like it here.” We need to all take credit for this aura. Then we have to stop and figure out how to make it easier to live here year round.

    Since the SBA is the most visible conduit for direct input into developing a plan we can all feel good about, the time is now for ensuring you know what is going on. The Sandpoint City Council has been fairly active in following the development of potential implementation plans and will be reviewing some potential ideas in upcoming City Council meetings. On February 20th another SBA sponsored meeting will be held to get more feedback and provide more specifics on future initiatives. The SBA email address is [email protected] Their phone number is 255-1276. There are openings on a number of committees that will be specifically tasked with working on smaller and more concrete opportunities for implementing action items that give credence to the countless number of hours that have been spent in the initial planning stages.

    If your complaint is about the necessity for action, then dial the phone or fire off the email. If you think developing a plan for anything positive is clouded by the existing controversy on the Byway issue, then how do you accomplish tasks at work or home that are critically intertwined but separately executed? As a community we will not succeed if we believe that any one plan, group or person will save us. The Chamber, the City Council, the County, the Library, the School District, the Non-profit groups, the Hospital, the Churches, the Community based Action Groups, the SBA, the arts community, the business community and our more visionary citizens have to care enough to want to participate in a slow, clumsy, tumultuous, opinionated, passionate dialogue about our goals, our priorities and our commitments. If you don’t get that, you don’t get success in small town America. And success does not necessarily mean growth, or tourism or infrastructure. Success means satisfaction.

     The word on the street is that SBA director Constance Buxton is taking her job seriously enough to seldom be found in her office—instead, she’s out on the street, hearing what businesses and shoppers have to say about downtown Sandpoint.


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Carol Curtis

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