In an effort to revitalize downtown Grand Forks, the Grand Forks Economic Development Advisory Committee (EDAC) hosted a presentation on Aug. 21 at the Seniors’ Hall at City Park.
Barb Haynes, executive director for Downtown Penticton Association, was invited to talk to local business owners and commercial property owners to the community about marketing and downtown revitalization. The presentation focused on how Penticton was able to succeed in marketing its city and how the City of Grand Forks may be able to adapt some strategies.
“What you need to do is get all the businesses involved together,” she noted. “It can’t just be one business trying to do it alone.”
Haynes explained that there are several points that need to be looked at, including starting up a Business Improvement Association (BIA), rebranding the city, sales and promotion, and creating diversity within the business community.
Coun. Gary Smith noted that he had lunch with Haynes prior to the presentation and was able to get some ideas that may apply to Grand Forks.
“The city can’t be the one to make business happen, businesses need to make business happen. All we can do is be there to support it,” he said. “The idea is to show that community can be built here and it doesn’t have to take a lot of time or money. It’s about getting people’s enthusiasm and get them to support each other and themselves.”
Coun. Bob Kendel agreed, “The fundamental message that was sent out is that businesses in this community have to rally together to work with their own development committee and city council. It can’t just be one person. The business committee has to rally behind each other because ultimately it’s their business.”
One idea that caught both councillors attention was Penticton’s ReImagine Art Festival, where local artists paint murals on the walls of the back alleys of buildings.
The ReImagine Art Festival has artists submit their work to the Downtown Penticton Association, where their artwork is paired with a similar minded business.
“When she told me what they were getting away with, it was almost criminal. The artists are really proud of what they do and to be showcased there,” Smith pointed out. “It’s having the venue to showcase them and if the community is willing to let them do that, I think it’s a great idea. Economic development is not just about economics or money – it’s about community. If you can build community, you can build your local economy.”
Kendel noted that EDAC would like to work with a sponsor who would be interested in participating in the festival.
“Whether it’s the ReImagine idea or something else, we’re going to get together and figure something out,” Kendel said. “We’re going to make it happen without waiting for the someone to say, ‘Well, as soon as the government or city gives us all the money but we won’t do anything until we get the money.’ We have to do it for ourselves.”