Macomb's new downtown development director has been on the job less than two months and is already laying out her plans to strengthen the courthouse square. Andrea Keene sees her role as being an advocate for merchants on the square.
And to do that, Keene said she must learn about the needs of downtown businesses owners. She said there are currently 53 businesses on the square and 5 vacant store fronts.
“You’re not a small business owner because it’s easy. You have a passion for what you do and we want to help you go above and beyond what the customer expects,” Keene said.
Keene wants to spark a movement among downtown business owners and she has created four committees for merchants to be a part of. Each focuses on an aspect she has identified as being important to the downtown’s success.
- Business retention and recruitment
- Events and promotions
- Community outreach
Keene is also working to differentiate the square from other retail venues. “Everywhere is really in competition for the dollar from the customer whether that’s the east side of town, the west side of town, driving to Quincy or going to Galesburg,” Keene said.
She is adding more downtown events to the calendar and tweaking existing events in an effort to increase turnout. Keene said one signature summer event for the square is the Macomb Farmer’s Market. It runs from 7:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. on Thursdays and Saturdays.
Keene has opened the event up to more vendors and is running a joint promotion called the wooden nickel program. It gives farmer’s market shoppers discounts to other businesses on the square.
“And as people continue to come down to the market and we give them more reasons to come down to the market… it’s only going to help our business downtown get more foot traffic and different target markets into their business.”
She said the city needs to embrace the farmers market which she said is the second oldest running market in the state. Keene is planning a special celebration for the market’s 40th anniversary on July 11.
The city will also begin hosting monthly and quarterly gatherings for downtown business owners. The first half of the monthly meetings will be open to the public.
The monthly group, Be Downtown Now, will meet for the first time Tuesday, June 2, 5:30 p.m. at Macomb City Hall.
“We really need to create more communication. I feel like sometimes downtown we have created silos and we have to get out of the silos and realize that team work is the only way its going to work if we work together we can benefit each other,” Keene said.
Keene also presented a budget to the Macomb City Council outlining what it will cost to achieve these goals. She expects to spend about $17,750.