By Mark Slagle
I am honored to be the new chairman of the Trenton Downtown Development Authority, and I do not take this responsibility lightly. I want to thank our previous chairman, Bob Howey, for his leadership of the DDA for the past 12 years.
Bob has been, and still is an enthusiastic supporter of the DDA. Everyone in the DDA district is fortunate that he was recently elected to the City Council. In addition to Bob’s past leadership and continued support, we have an 10-member board that is dedicated to promoting the goals of the DDA, even though we continue to operate amidst numerous challenges.
I have been a business owner within the DDA district since 2003. Like many people in Trenton, I love this town and I want to see it thrive. The DDA district was hit hard, long before the most recent economic downturn. Probably most notably was when the Mulias & Elias store burned in the summer of 1987. Since then we have seen the area slowly decline and today its economic health dwarfs the activity it had prior to the store’s demise.
My goal for 2012 is to focus on being “lucky.” The definition of luck I subscribe to is “Luck is when preparedness meets opportunity.” Wayne Gretzky is famous for saying that he didn’t skate to where the puck was, but rather, to where it was going to be. We too need to position ourselves to be where the opportunities will be in the future.
As part of this preparedness, there have been significant investments the downtown area infrastructure. Recent economic indicators show signs of improvement, though slow, but at least moving in the right direction. We need to be ready to take advantage of the opportunities that will appear as well as those that we proactively go after.
Despite reduced revenue for the DDA as a result of reduced property values, and despite continued payment on capital improvements (which will continue for some time); we cannot sit on our hands and do nothing, if we wish to see the DDA district come alive again
Surrounding cities are not standing still and like any business; if we don’t attract customers to our area, they will spend their money elsewhere, and we risk becoming a ghost town. We can attract businesses and consumers if we are persistent to assemble all viable ideas and implement whichever ones we can, no matter how large or small. I personally don’t want any other alternative.
I recently returned from my franchise national convention held on-site at Disney World. It was my sixth visit and every time I’m awed and amazed at what Walt Disney accomplished as a result of having a vision and being persistent. He did not let the naysayers take away his dream. He is an inspiration to me, as he is to many others who believed success was not possible.
No one person or group can accomplish great things alone. We need input and resources beyond the DDA to move forward faster and further. In early 2011 we held a town hall meeting to initiate discussion within the DDA district. Many people expressed their support and optimism for what could be accomplished if we work together.
There continues to be a trickle of businesses opening within the district. Plans are moving ahead with the conversion of the former Riverside hospital building (see related article in this installment of the DDA E-News) to reopen as a sub-acute care facility. The McLouth property is potential asset looking for an owner. There are many other hidden opportunities to guide business owners and consumers to the DDA district. We have to make them happen.
We have added two new members to the DDA board using the idea that “two heads are better than one” to help generate even more ideas to help the DDA move forward. Last year we published a written communication and now quarterly e-mails through this year to better communicate with DDA businesses and residents.
I encourage everyone to volunteer your thoughts, ideas, energy and resources to help improve the downtown development area. Send your thoughts and comments to email@example.com.