Main Street is bustling with activity — and needs your help

Published 6:26 pm Wednesday, June 30, 2004

By By JAMES COLLINS / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- With Niles' recent designation as a Michigan Main Street Community comes an increased opportunity for community residents to become involved in the shaping of the city's future.
The Downtown Development Authority/Main Street Initiative is currently looking to recruit volunteers to help with the many things that go along with being a Main Street community.
The City of Niles received this designation from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation at a special announcement ceremony on June 17.
Niles Downtown Development Authority director Lisa Croteau said they are seeking community members to help out in any capacity, whether it be for one hour, one project or as a long term helper.
Part of the process of being a Main Street community is to reinvolve the community and this offers a rare chance for people to help to change their city for the better, Croteau said.
According to Croteau, Niles was following the Main Street philosophy prior to being selected as a Michigan Main Street Community. This philosophy includes four main components: design, promotions, organization and economic restructuring.
In Niles, each one of these components is represented with a different committee of volunteers. And with Niles' new designation, Croteau said there will be more of a need for volunteers to help out with these committees.
The design committee is concerned with issues that effect the physical look of the downtown area.
Whether it be design guidelines, signage, store fronts, plants or store windows, this committee is responsible for helping the area look its best.
The promotions committee concentrates on creating ways to get people to come downtown.
Over the past year, the promotions committee has held downtown events like the Celebration Chair Auction, Garage Barrage and Bob the Builder.
The organization committee is responsible for activities like recruiting volunteers, developing fundraisers and helping to put a plan of action for downtown into place.
The economic restructuring committee will be proactive in helping attract new businesses and assisting the merchants that are already here.
Croteau said this committee will be working closely with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and the Michigan Main Street program in developing a yearly market analysis of the downtown area.
In mid-January, the state will be paying for a $30,000 market study of the area to determine what businesses would fit well in Niles and what businesses will succeed here.
The corporation will then present this information to the economic restructuring committee, who will help Niles to complete a similar analysis on a yearly basis.
Croteau said this committee is a particularly good opportunity for someone with business experience that would like to help.
She acknowledged that the revitalization effort currently has a wonderful set of about 50 regular volunteers.
But, she is concerned that an increased workload may overwork the dedicated community members who are already volunteering on a regular basis.