Going Downtown: Consultant to study Granby, create plan for vibrant town center
December 18, 2007
Even though the town has its lion’s share of veterinary clinics, gas stations, massage therapists and auto mechanics, Granby’s downtown lacks the kind of retail choices that attract leisure shoppers and bring social vitality to the area.
For Granby’s downtown to truly thrive, it needs to attract businesses like shoe stores, clothing stores and book stores, according to Downtown Enhancement Director Betsy Cook.
Business fronts are full in downtown Granby, but without the right mix of retail, shoppers are spending money elsewhere ” on the Internet and in other towns.
To fix this problem ” or to plug the “leak” ” Granby is turning to entrepreneurial development expert Chuck D’Aprix, founder of the nonprofit Downtown Entrepreneurship Project based in Washington D.C., an organization dedicated to helping downtowns attract, train and nurture independent entrepreneurs.
D’Aprix researched Granby’s economy, crunching numbers, and recognized the gap immediately.
D’Aprix will be in Granby Jan. 7-11 to conduct a full-scale analysis of Granby’s downtown. He will offer the town several recommendations to help bolster retail in the area.
The consultant’s visit is being underwritten by the Granby’s Downtown Enhancement Fund, Grand Mountain Bank, Resort Management Group and Grand County BEDA (Business and Economic Development Association).
Upon his week-long visit, D’Aprix promises to customize a game plan tailored to entrepreneurship for Granby’s downtown.
The key is to having retail businesses growing and “waiting in the wings” to fill any downtown vacancies should they arise, he said.
“What we will have Jan 11 is a step-by-step plan outlining what resources we have within the community to help identify what business opportunities we have here,” said Cook.
It’s a recipe to make Granby’s downtown ultimately more vibrant with more retail traffic.
“Ever since I got here, people are not beating my office door down to open more businesses on main street,” she said.
Granby faces challenges for upstart businesses, such as a dwindling work force, a shortage of new attainable housing, and the rising cost of real estate with high leases discouraging many prospective business owners from investing in Granby.
Hiring D’Aprix to study the culture of Granby and decide what model best fits its downtown, “is really us being really super, super proactive,” Cook said.
D’Aprix stresses that the program is not just another study headed for the shelf.
“It is one thing to study historic downtown Granby, it is another to bring together statewide resources to develop a program to grow new independent retailers and provide technical assistance to those businesses already here.” he said. “Studies are fine, but where the rubber meets the road is in implementation. Towns are studied to death ” implementation is the key.”
D’Aprix notes that it is far easier to grow a new business, attract an interested entrepreneur, train someone with business experience to open a business and help out an existing independent business than it is to attract a new business, such as a chain business, to the downtown.
He worked as a Main Street manager, then ran several development corporations, which led to his own consulting business. He eventually developed a software package for economic development.
D’Aprix later worked as an in-house consultant for the City of Boston, and later, was the first director of Quincy 2000 Corporation in Quincy, Mass, which helped revitalize three key commercial districts, including Quincy’s downtown.
The successful program helped entrepreneurs market their businesses, created a rigorous screening program, implemented a resource center for training people, established a peer support program and created a “faux loan” committee that gave business owners the chance to practice loan presentations before the real deal.
After analyzing Granby’s economic data and conducting initial research on the business climate, D’Aprix said he is encouraged.
“I am looking forward to getting getting historic Downtown Granby on the road to entrepreneurial growth,” he said.
The gathering of focus groups during D’Aprix’s visit will be advertised in upcoming newspapers and on the Granby Web site. The public is invited to participate.
There will be a final presentation on D’Aprix’s findings set for Jan. 11, also open to the public.
– Tonya Bina can be reached at 887-3334 ext. 19603 or e-mail email@example.com.