Key Steps For Improving and Redeveloping Downtown Areas

Downtown areas are the social and financial center of many communities. Some municipalities are looking to revitalize and kick-start development in struggling downtown districts, while others are looking to grow and expand upon quality development that has occurred organically over time. Regardless of the issues, a key to a healthy downtown is continually generating fresh ideas and solutions that are tailored to an individual community’s changing needs.

To fully develop ideas and solutions, there needs to be an evaluation of what is currently working and not working downtown: an existing conditions overview. This includes honest observations that point out how a downtown environment could be even better.

An intensive assessment by a team of downtown professionals typically includes a walking tour of downtown, informal meetings with merchants, residents, staff and officials, review of previous planning documents, and independent analyses and evaluations by an experienced downtown team.

Some of the questions a downtown team will typically ask include the following:

Signage: How are businesses communicating to the public? What do the signs say about the downtown environment?

Street Lighting: Is the downtown well-lit, safe and appealing?

Window Displays: What are shoppers’ first impressions of downtown businesses?

Connectivity: How are neighborhoods connected to downtown?

Downtown Sidewalks: What is the quality of sidewalks? How are the downtown sidewalks functioning?

Streetscape Continuity: How does the streetscape enhance or deter pedestrian movement along downtown streets?

Maintenance of the Public Realm: How well-maintained are public spaces? What private spaces function as public spaces?

Recently, the NEXTSTEPS for Downtown team, which provides expert planning, parking, and traffic services to downtown areas, prepared a downtown evaluation for the Village of Holly, Michigan. The Village of Holly is located in northern Oakland County, Michigan and includes a historic downtown district.

Downtown Holly was developed at a pedestrian-oriented scale that is easily walkable. Recent improvements to the streetscape are attractive and barrier-free.

Battle Alley, a narrow historic street flanked by local shops and the historic Holly Hotel, has a scale and charm that is immediately felt by the pedestrian. Other downtown streets vary in terms of streetscape amenities, street trees, building walls, and the like.

Many storefronts have attractive display windows, interesting merchandise visible, and amenities for shoppers such as wide awnings and recessed doorways. These adjacent private elements augment the public streetscape and are part of what makes the pedestrian experience in downtown Holly unique.

After a site visit, interviews (with staff, merchants, customers, and developers), and review of previous planning documents, the NEXTSTEPS team prepared a user-friendly downtown toolkit. This toolkit included:

• Assessment of the business district by experienced downtown professionals,
• Illustrative report describing what is working and what is not working downtown,
• Series of short-term and long-term action strategies (Next Steps) to enhance & strengthen downtown,
• Best practices report (what’s working elsewhere in downtowns across the country),
• Implementation worksheets (to prioritize and assign tasks that strengthen and grow downtown), and
• An interactive disk containing electronic versions of all the above documents.

The entire NEXTSTEPS for Downtown process is designed to be completed within 30 days of the site visit. It’s an intensive effort that is designed to generate fresh ideas and solutions quickly. Many ideas can be implemented right away at little cost, and others are often more significant in scale and cost. The implementation worksheets provide the tools necessary for the downtown leaders to accept, reject or modify recommendations, prioritize them, and then make assignments to appropriate persons, boards or organizations.

More information can be found at http://www.nextstepsfordowntown.com.

Starting a New Business – Logo Development Tips

As a small business entrepreneur, you are savvy enough to know that branding isn’t just for large multinational corporations. But how important should it be to your small business? To answer this question, let’s take a look at the two parts that define branding. There are the visual aspects of typography, colors and graphics. And there are the emotional aspects of a brand, the customer experiences and associations with the products or services. When one combines on-target design with positive customer experiences, you’ve got a business that can go places. Why is branding so important? Business is a big game and in this game you should always be in pursuit of a competitive advantage. This applies to businesses of any size.

Ideally, you want your logo to represent the reason why you are in business in the first place. First, read your mission statement of how you intend to win in business and who your target market will be. Then think about what kind of a logo would be necessary to hold its own against your competition. Now you are ready to communicate vital notes to a logo designer.

From the logo designer’s perspective, the logo is the single most important part of your branding that you will develop. True enough, your marketing materials and websites will go through many changes, but your logo should remain stable-the anchor and springboard of all of your branding. This is the ideal. A Madison Avenue ad agency might charge the equivalent of a luxury car for a logo, because major corporations know how important it is. It is ironic, that for small businesses, the proliferation of online factories means you can get a logo for the cost of a nice dinner. My recommendation is that you find an individual designer or small firm who will really listen to you and with which you can build a relationship. Not only will the fees still be very reasonable and affordable-you will receive value far exceeding payment.

On your first sales meeting, will it give you confidence to know you spent $45 on a logo? By the same token, as a small business owner, of course you don’t want to overspend. In fact, you don’t want to stress your marketing budget by overspending on any one piece of the puzzle.

Food for thought: is the success of Google’s logo through visibility and repetition or is it award-winning design? It’s really the only part of the branding that we see. The logo has become a cornerstone of the Internet, because the success of the company made it so. It’s achieved brand familiarity and with it trust, if not awe. What if Google was a D List search engine with a few hundred visitors a week, what would you think of their logo?

You’ve probably heard this before, but it’s worth repeating: you should include your logo on every piece of communication. Put it on every web page of your site, business cards, letterhead, envelopes, invoices, yellow page ads, building signage, newsletters, web buttons, promotional collateral, and certainly every ad. Familiarity begets trust and trust will lead to increased sales. Then perhaps if your logo is next to a competitor’s, they’ll contact you first.

Accomplish Something As a Small Business Entrepreneur

The idea behind the small business opportunity is usually the first place a person looks towards to find an additional form of finance. In the past the first place a person would consider to develop extra income was with the search for a second job. The evolution of the internet has placed a stop to the idea of the second job in favor of the generation of the small business entrepreneur. The internet is the new source of residual income business that most of the small business entrepreneurs look towards. There are many opportunities available to the new small business entrepreneur and the following covers only a few of the many avenues available for a residual income business.

The most popular form of small business opportunity comes from generating an online store to sell multiple items to consumers all over the internet. This is a model of comfort based on the physical stores in existence that survives every year through the profits of selling multiple small items and accumulating a profit. Some individuals have found success with this strategy when they find a demand or niche that can be filled, however most fail. The theory is good for a residual income business opportunity but it requires the backing of a major company or the financial stability to wait for a business to become established with brand recognition. A residual income business of this nature is a long term investment of time and possibly money that may pay off in the long run if a person can survive that length of time.

The creation of a new small business from a company that already exists is an additional form of residual income business opportunity. You see advertisements on a regular basis for a small business opportunity to generate an at home business based on an existing program. The small business entrepreneur can receive help form these companies as they receive assistance with website development, product identification and sales processing options.

If you are selling a large number of smaller items then the establishment of a company such as this will only assist your residual income business opportunity. There is a catch though when you are creating a residual income business with these companies. The assistance offered with these companies often require that you find methods to generate traffic to your developed site. The drive to create online traffic is another way of phrasing that you will be responsible for the advertising of your site, a concept that can be quite complicated online. Choosing not to pursue advertising will ultimately lead to the destruction of your residual income business opportunity.

The last small business opportunity is finding a company that offers the “Big Up-front Profits and Residual Income” system. The high generation of profit from the results of selling big ticket goods is what this system offers an interested individual. This is due to the fact that the profit from the sale of one of these big ticket items is equivalent to the profits of many smaller items. In addition, finding a company that will not only help you design your sight but offers advertising assistance is gold in this type of market.