South Lyon DDA Director Shares Insights With Whitmore Lake Officials

The Northfield Township Downtown Development Authority brought in some outside assistance to help spur ideas for turning downtown Whitmore Lake around.

South Lyon DDA Executive Director and board member of the Michigan Downtown Association Bob Donohue brought his 42 years of expertise to the table in a special meeting with the Northfield Township DDA at a special meeting earlier this month. With no economic development or income for the past decade, DDA members discussed policies, strategies and ideas with Donohue. According to board members, the downtown district needs to generate an additional $4-million before the DDA starts pulling in revenue that can be used for promoting and improving the district. Donohue pointed out that the first D in DDA is “downtown,” and if you’ve got that image of a downtown, or even the fragment of a street that could look like a movie set, “you’ve got it.” With the “A” standing for “authority” he reminded them they have it over matters in their jurisdiction. Now they just need to get that middle “D,” or “development.”

He shared hope for the rejuvenation of Whitmore Lake and how officials might start working towards it. Donohue recommended that the Northfield DDA adopt the National Main Street Plan to start. The plan offers 4 point approach for community revitalization, helping with organization, design, promotion, and economic restructuring. He encouraged them to update their district map, and to prioritize development sites. Donohue noted that an economic development organization like Ann Arbor SPARK could be a great asset for generating interest. He also encouraged DDA members to investigate the Community Reinvestment Act, which mandates the township’s bank to reinvest 5% of their funds into the community.

Donohue encouraged DDA members not to overextend themselves and burn out, and to create a mix of events that balance between community and business benefit. The DDA-run Trunk or Treat is a big success, but businesses also want events that help ring up the cash register. Finally, he encouraged them to chase sponsorships for offsetting costs, but also making certain that the sponsors are getting their money’s worth or more for their capital spent.

DDA Chair Barb Watkins called the evening an educational experience, and that the members were leaving the meeting feeling more empowered for it. (MK)

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