Downtown talkers move dangerously close to action

In what has become a regular ritual, dozens of downtown business people again took up tablets and pencils on Tuesday to write down what they know about themselves and the rest of downtown and suggest ways to improve things.

Although it wavered on the brink of another session of beating a dead horse, the sheer numbers of people attending gave it sense of urgency, of frustration, a feeling that this time people really are pushing for action. Whether that will come and when remains a question. I talked to the heads of the Northfield Area Chamber of Commerce and the Northfield Downtown Development Corp. after the meeting at The Grand Event Center and asked what the next step is.

You guessed it..."We're creating a task force."

The scary thing for me is that their first step is to create an inventory to determine what businesses are downtown, what resources are available and what the gaps are. All these organizations, plus City Hall, and all this talk about how bad downtown is doing and no one actually has any database to determine what the situation is or how much worse it is or how much impact any changes will have

How much worse is downtown than five years ago? How much improvement is needed? How would any effort be measured to determine whether it is a success?

No answers yet, but we'll keep you posted. 

On Tuesday, the audience covered some familiar ground in their suggestions for what would perk up downtown. More foot traffic, more marketing, more events, more restaurants were on the list.

There were a few new bits, like a universal gift card...possibly tied to the student purchasing card systems on the two college campuses. (Right now people have to buy paper gift certificates in $5 denominations.) Other interesting possibilities included internal marketing -- actually having business owners learn about what's downtown and be able to talk about it, answer questions and refer business to colleagues.

As always, if you have any new ideas, add them below and I'll pass them on. 

Anne Bretts is managing editor or Northfield.org.