Fostering pride in the downtown

Darrell Cole
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Advisory committee already seeing results

Michelle LeBlanc (second left) and Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin (third left) of the downtown business advisory committee speak to Rotarians Mike Norton (left), Shelagh Rayworth and Brian Trenholm. 

AMHERST – Amherst’s downtown business advisory committee may only be months old, but its chair said it has already helped create a new buzz in the community.

Speaking to the Amherst Rotary Club earlier this week, board members Michelle LeBlanc and Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin said the committee is creating new partnerships and helping foster interest and excitement in the downtown business core.

“We’re already seeing tremendous results in what’s taking place in the downtown and more activity in the downtown is having and will continue to have spinoffs through the rest of the community,” LeBlanc told Rotarians.

Soon after the Downtown Amherst Revitalization Society disbanded earlier this year, a group of area business people approached the town about creating a new organization that would be the voice of the downtown merchants.

LeBlanc said the town was very receptive to the concept and worked with the merchants to create the advisory committee that will serve as a conduit between the downtown and town council.

The organization has six representatives, including a member of town council, and has a number of sub-committees including festivals and events and marketing.

LeBlanc said the Rockabilly festival in early September provided momentum to using the downtown and the redesigned Victoria Square for community celebrations. That was followed up with the downtown street party and the Fibre Arts Festival that brought hundreds of people to the area.

“During the downtown street party I was approached by a person who told me she felt a lot of pride. We take a great sense of accomplishment from that one word,” LeBlanc said. “We have a great group of volunteers and they’re excited and eager to move forward.”

She is already looking forward to the downtown light-up in November and work has already begun on a calendar of events for 2013.

The organization, she said, is also creating a solid partnership with the Amherst and Area Chamber of Commerce.

Smith-McCrossin said she is doing a marketing study with downtown businesses. She has sent out 89 surveys and has received more than half of them back. Once all the surveys have been returned, the marketing sub-committee will develop a new marketing plan for the downtown.

“Our goal is to create a strong, vibrant business community for the next five, 10, 15 and 20 years,” Smith-McCrossin said.

Smith-McCrossin said the town has already invested a lot of money in upgrading the infrastructure of the downtown with changes to the square, new sidewalks and paving.

She sees tremendous opportunity for the future of the area, adding the committee is hopeful a celebration is held in 2014 to mark Amherst’s 250th anniversary as a community.

Organizations: Amherst Rotary Club, Downtown Amherst Revitalization Society, Area Chamber of Commerce

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