All need to work together for good of downtown

KEEPING DOWNTOWN PLYMOUTH ALIVE continues to be the focus of many different efforts and attentions.

The Redevelopment Authority has made downtown Plymouth a major priority since its very inception, including efforts to create a set of downtown design standards and guidelines to serve as a template for future renovation and rehabilitation projects.

The RDA has also been tasked with finding a buyer/new user for the vacant building at 31 E. Mill St., which the city took title to after it was foreclosed, and will be doing the same for the vacant building at 133 E. Mill St.

But beyond the brick and mortar specifics, the RDA has a genuine concern for the overall vitality and economic health of the Mill Street business district as its entrepreneurs and small business owners continue to struggle against the box stores and mass retailers that buffet them every day.

One thing that RDA members have discussed often is the need for some kind of coordination and management for downtown businesses.

They took a step in that direction by finding independent consultant Stacy Tuescher, who set up a Facebook page for downtown Plymouth ( and recently completed a survey of downtown business owners.

The survey revealed that downtown businesses would like to see a greater effort at marketing and enhancing downtown business. At the same time, it revealed the greatest impediment to that effort is the nature of most businesses in downtown Plymouth.

They are, as RDA chair Lee Gentine characterized it, one- or twoperson shops, with the one or two people wearing a multitude of hats. Too often, the hat that falls off is the marketing and promotion hat.

The Downtown Business Association is able to provide some of that effort, but since that is a collection of the very people who too often can’t find the time in their busy schedules to selfpromote, that effort is hampered.

The Plymouth Chamber of Commerce also provides some of that effort, but that organization is a city- and community-wide group, so the main focus of its work is obviously on the city as a whole and anything for downtown alone is a lesser priority.

The RDA has spoken often of the need for a downtown coordinator, someone to help downtown businesses work together for their common good and to spearhead the effort to bring alive.

The problem is, that can not be done on a volunteer basis. It takes money to hire someone with the expertise, training and interest to do the job effectively.

The city missed the boat several decades ago on getting involved directly with the Main Street program. You only have to look a 10 miles to the east to Sheboygan Falls – a Main Street community for a number of years – to see how effective that program has been.

Plymouth is taking advantage of much the Main Street program has to offer through the Connect Communities program, but it does not provide funding for a downtown manager position.

The idea of creating a business improvement district for downtown, utilizing additional levies on businesses in the district to finance improvement efforts for the district – which could include a downtown manager – has been proposed in the past for Plymouth but has never gotten off the ground.

Perhaps the time has come to reopen the BID discussion. Perhaps other means of financing a needed downtown manager can be found.

But the important thing is that the city, the RDA, the chamber and the downtown businesses need to come together and work together toward the common good, promoting and preserving downtown Plymouth. It’s too vital a cause to fail for lack of effort or cooperation.

At issue:
Downtown manager
Bottom line:
Find a way to get it done

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