Today we facilitated a meeting on behalf of the City of Rochester aimed at recruiting viable businesses to South Clinton Avenue and Monroe Avenue.
The task of developing a “business recruitment package” is in our scope of work as Street Manager for the City. However, it was up to us to define what that meant. Jen, Anna Liisa and I developed a package, with input from the City and merchant association leadership. And we decided to present that materials at a two-hour meeting with our intended audience - commercial realtors and property owners of vacant commercial spaces.
PARTNERS IN BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT
The group of presenters included staff from the City of Rochester Department of Neighborhood and Business Development, the City of Rochester Neighborhood Service Center, the leadership from the merchant associations, staff from RIT’s Center for Urban Entrepreneurship, the SUNY Small Business Development Center, SCORE, Pathstone Enterprise Center, and…. of course, Highland Planning. All three of us.
The business recruitment package included economic and demographic data for each of the avenues, information about each of the merchant associations, grant applications for small business owners, an overview of the Street Manager program, and material from each of organizations that provide supportive services to small businesses.
The package also included two newly developed brochures that document the recent developments, beautification projects, events, and promotional activities that have taken place recently on Monroe Avenue and South Clinton Avenue. Here is a hyperlink to one of them:
At the meeting, Matt McCarthy, Senior Economic Development Specialist from the City's Department of Neighborhood and Business Development, provided an overview of grants, loans and services the City can provide to new and existing businesses. Nancy Johns Price, from the City's Southeast Neighborhood Service Center, discussed the process involved in opening new businesses in the City, obtaining permits and approval for signage.
Sarah Piciulo and Moira Lemperle provided an overview of the South Clinton Merchant Association and the Monroe Avenue Merchant Association, respectively, including recent events like the Show on Monroe and South Clinton Goes Batty, beautification projects, collective marketing efforts, support in front of decision making boards for business owners, and communication among members. The business association representatives are all successful business owners, so they had relevant perspectives as both association leadership and potential neighbors to new businesses.
Each of the service organizations we invited – the RIT Center for Urban Entrepreneurship, SCORE, Pathstone Enterprise Center, and SUNY Small Business Development Center discussed the services they provide and how they work with one another to create the best opportunities for business owners.
I discussed Highland Planning’s role as Southeast Street Manager. We conduct door-to-door outreach and market the City’s grants and loans to each of the 200+ businesses on the avenues. We work with businesses to address code violations before they are ticketed. We manage the South Clinton Facebook page and organize events. We write grants, gather data, administer surveys, and track vacancies. We support the work of both merchant associations. And most importantly, we facilitate communication among the City, the businesses, the property owners, and nearby residents. That's a lot. Thank goodness there are three of us.
There were more than twenty attendees at the meeting, and the combination of people and perspectives gave us a lot to talk about.
The material and the presentations resulted in excellent discussion about how we can work collectively to bring complementary businesses to our avenues. I can’t predict what the outcomes will be, but I would like to think we changed some people’s minds about the potential for each of these avenues to become vibrant commercial districts.