Contact: Vickie Ledsworth, President
Blue Water Area Chamber of Commerce
PH: 810. 985.7101
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 9, 2012
Chamber offers support for MainStreet by sharing resources, office space in existing welcome center
Port Huron, MI, - The Blue Water Area Chamber of Commerce is extending a helping hand to downtown businesses seeking to support the reorganization of MainStreet Port Huron, a 501c3 non-profit organization, that will be based heavily on volunteers and self-imposed assessments. The group would focus on four main pillars, preserving historical design; positive promotion of the MainStreet district to attract customers to the downtown district; human and financial resources to support the organization; and economic restructuring to diversity the business base and finance improvements in the district.
In a recent meeting held by organizers, the need for a downtown welcome center with public restrooms, information center, a conference space and an office would be needed for a part-time director. While David Witt had committed to offering the former Whipple Tree storefront to the group, there would be thousands of dollars in cost to build out handicap accessible bathrooms, office space and a conference room, in addition to establishing a phone system, computer network and other operational expenses to open a welcome center office. The chamber of commerce recognized an opportunity to offer assistance to this small downtown-focused business group – share space in our existing downtown welcome center.
The chamber supports the concept of MainStreet and the resources, best practices and network it can provide the downtown business district. The chamber also understands the limited resources of downtown businesses, since most of them are merchants and restaurants categorized as start-ups within the first few years of owning and operating their business.
There are two significant factors that could determine whether the Chamber and MainStreet work together, financial resources and human resources. Many businesses struggle to find time to support the various non-profits in the community that desperately need volunteers to carry out their mission, organize events, and provide leadership. Small businesses also struggle to financially support the nonprofits in the area that are seeking memberships and sponsorships; therefore, while the purpose of MainStreet may be an ideal fit for Port Huron’s historic downtown, embracing a joint effort may help optimize the limited resources available.
The chamber has offered MainStreet organizers the opportunity to share resources by housing a MainStreet staffperson or volunteer in the chamber office, providing access to the welcome center, business information resource center, and conference room space for committee meetings and board meetings, and administrative support. The chamber office is also handicap accessible and provides two handicap accessible public restrooms year round.
“The chamber has a 5-year lease on our existing office which was designated by the City of Port Huron as the downtown welcome center 3 years ago, and Acheson Ventures invested in the complete remodel of the building for the purpose of having a business information and resource center located in the center of the business district. By sharing space with MainStreet, both organizations demonstrate ommunity support and partnership that optimizes the investment that has already been made by Acheson Ventures and the City. Then, MainStreet can be solely focused on their four pillars,” said chamber president, Vickie Ledsworth.
“That would support the intention that the Acheson foundation had for investing in this facility. Doug Austin was a strong supporter of the Chamber and MainStreet and he would love to see us working together,” said Ledsworth.
The chamber could provide office space and access to the phone system and other everyday business systems. The chamber director would not be the MainStreet director. One of the concerns MainStreet supporters had would be differentiating the two organizations. MainStreet could differentiate itself with its logo on all promotional material and signage. The chamber could also offer a content page on its website dedicated to MainStreet Port Huron.
The City Manager hosted a meeting on July 26th and MainStreet organizers and interested businesses completed a brief survey to determine the next step. The feedback indicated support for working with the chamber to avoid redundancy in operations, while a concern expressed was the chamber’s broader demographic focus. Sixty-four percent of the chamber’s membership is located within a 3-mile radius of downtown Port Huron, thirteen percent in Fort Gratiot, and six percent in Marysville.
“The majority of our membership is in Port Huron and in and around the downtown. The chamber has always been located in the downtown and worked closely with the City of Port Huron, so we will support the businesses’ decision either way, whatever is going to work best for them,” said Ledsworth.
“We have been hearing for years that ‘existing downtown groups must find a way to work together to eliminate redundancy’, said Ledsworth. “I believe this can be done. Even if the financial resources don’t come together immediately to formally organize a MainStreet organization and hire a director, downtown businesses could organize a committee focused on their specific needs and could utilize the chamber office for their meeting space,” said Ledsworth.
The Blue Water Area Chamber of Commerce promotes Blue Water area businesses by providing business advocacy, education and assistance, and has supported commerce and economic development in the region since 1917.