Meeting draws 45 residents

Published 4:25 pm Thursday, February 17, 2005

By By ERIN VER BERKMOES / Niles Daily Star
NILES - Niles residents showed they care.
About 45 Niles residents took time out of their busy lives Wednesday to attend the Main Street Economic Restructuring Committee's town meeting and workshop to determine the future of downtown Niles.
After introductions, those attending broke into groups and answered questions and discussed their visions of what they'd like for downtown Niles' future.
"We are hoping that over the next three or four months as this project continues, we will get help from the community with the surveys and things that need to be done," said Bill Haslett, the committee's chairman.
Jay Schlinsog and Lisa Bennett of Downtown Professionals Network (DPN) were at Wednesday's forum. DPN is a consulting firm based in the Chicago area, retained by the Michigan Economic Development Corp. to conduct the study for Niles and give the committee recommendations for business development and marketing strategies for downtown.
Schlinsog and Bennett said they work closely with the members of the community, business owners and community leaders to establish meaningful strategies for marketing and business development.
"We try and capitalize on many things with in the community," Schlinsog said. "In this type of process, the community often thinks of us as the experts, in terms of what should be done to really change their town, but we like to think of the community itself as the expert. You people who live and work here truly know Niles better than we ever can."
Schlinsog said it's vital that Niles conduct a new market study.
After Schlinsog's presentation, the group of residents was asked to do a little bit of work-shopping, where they talked about what they thought the strengths and weaknesses of the downtown area are, and what they would like to see the end result of the project be.
The DPN officials said they will take all of the ideas and comments from this portion of the meeting and use them to draw up the survey for the next portion of the project.
"The people who were here at this meeting tonight really care about their community and want to see a change," Schlinsog said. "We got some really great ideas that will help us put together the surveys."
The committee needs help from community members with the ongoing project. Volunteers are needed to do phone surveys, as well as face-to-face administering of the surveys.
If interested in helping out with this portion of the project please contact Lisa Croteau at the Downtown Development Authority at 687-4332.