Groups partnering to create downtown business development officer

A collection of community groups have been working for years to spur activity in the downtown area.

The Downtown Development Partnership is a 501c3 nonprofit and has 11 permanent members: Downtown Great Falls Association, Business Improvement District, Great Falls Development Authority, the city’s Neighborhood Council 7, City of Great Falls Parking Commission, City of Great Falls, Cascade County, City-County Historic Preservation Advisory Commission, Great Falls Area Chamber of Commerce, Great Falls School District 1 and NeighborWorks Great Falls.
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Some members of the group attended the National Main Street Now Conference in Seattle where the Great American Main Street Award winners were announced.

A common theme among the winners was noted by Craig Raymond, the city planning director, after the awards ceremony.
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The three winners all had a person or agency focused on economic development in their downtowns.

Since returning from the conference, the group has continued discussions of how to implement the 2011 Downtown Master Plan and the transformation strategies of the Main Street America program, known as Four Points.

Those four points are:

  • Economic vitality, focusing on capital, incentives, and other economic and financial tools to assist new and existing businesses, catalyze property development, and create a supportive environment for entrepreneurs and innovators that drive local economies;
  • Design, supports a community’s transformation by enhancing the physical and visual assets that set the commercial district apart;
  • Promotion, positions the downtown or commercial district as the center of the community and hub of economic activity, while creating a positive image that showcases a community’s unique characteristics; and
  • Organization, involves creating a strong foundation for a sustainable revitalization effort, including cultivating partnerships, community involvement, and resources for the district.

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The discussion has resulted in a partnership between the Great Falls Development Authority and the Great Falls Business Improvement District to hire a downtown business development officer.

The two agencies have signed a professional services agreement since they’ll be splitting the cost of the position, but it will be a GFDA employee housed in the downtown office on Central Avenue.

The BID is funded by an assessment property owners within the district vote to impose on themselves and GFDA is funded through several sources, but not city taxpayer dollars.
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“We’re really, really excited to have this position moving forward,” Joan Redeen, BID community director, said during the Sept. 25 meeting.

The agencies are developing the job description now and then will open up the position for applicants.
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According to GFFA, the downtown business development officer will “undertake economic development work to bring greater economic vitality to the Great Falls Downtown Master Plan area with an emphasis on the BID area. The work shall be guided by the principles of economic vitality of the National Main Street program and economic development best practices. The work will include business retention and expansion, market research, business and developer attraction, and investment marketing. This is an exciting step for Downtown Great Falls.”

To start, it would be a six month position and then the agencies would evaluate its effectiveness.