Friday, June 29, 2012

Get A Life

Each year, Downtown Frederick Partnership organizes a Competitive Edge series where we offer six workshops over six months – January thru June.  We have been incredibly fortunate to receive great financial support from PNC Bank as well as the Frederick County Division of Business Development and Retention.  The series has been incredibly helpful to entrepreneurs, giving them free access to ideas, tools and connections to improve their business success.  Small businesses rarely have easy access to training focused on their needs in particular and it is our goal to fill that niche with this series.  

For 2012, we concluded the Competitive Edge series with a session on Get A Life – 12 Keys to a Successful Work/Life Balance.  The session was great – with insights offered by Ed Robinson with Capacity Building Solutions, Clyde Hicks with The Trail House and Allison Levitt with Two Paws Up.  Some of my favorite lessons learned from the panel…

  • The power of the people you surround yourself with – If you want a better work/life balance, surround yourself with people who you feel have achieved or do a good job with that goal.  I find I have no better teachers than the people I surround myself with.  Seek out those who do what you want to do and how you want to do it.  Learn by example.

  • What is your daily three?  What three tasks are you going to complete today?  I love this idea.  As a list maker at heart, I have lists for home, lists for the office, lists for things I want to do someday, lists of tasks to achieve this weekend, etc, etc.  For me, checking something off a list is a sweet reward. That said, a list with 35 to do items can make you feel like a failure at the end of a day.  But three, now that is possible.

  • Make sure you are 2 percent better each day.  For all of you recovering perfectionists, this one’s for you.  We will never be perfect (I know, it’s shocking) but every one of us has the potential to be two percent better each day.  Powerful and achievable – a good combo

I also need to thank the speakers one more time – not only did they volunteer their time and talents, they also were willing to share failures as well as successes.  I think the acknowledgment of mistakes made and their focus on moving forward is a huge part of their overall success.  Looking forward to a great series in 2013!

Friday, June 22, 2012

A Fresh Coat of Paint

To my mind, few things are better than a fresh coat of paint.  It refreshes, brightens and, with my work hat on, shows investment in one of Downtown Frederick’s greatest assets – our building stock.  As I was headed to a grand opening last evening, I had to stop and take this photo.  It’s always great to see painting happening in Downtown Frederick.  It’s even better when the Partnership is helping to pay for it.  
If you didn’t know, the Partnership offers a fa├žade improvement grant program to downtown property and business owners.  If the project is approved BEFORE work begins, then we can pay for 50% of the improvement costs up to a total of $10,000.  The application is simple – one page to fill out and a second page to sign.  We need two bids, two photos and a brief description of what you plan to do – that’s it.  The goal is to get the money on the street as quickly as possible to make a difference in Downtown Frederick. 

To date, the Partnership has awarded nearly $175,000 to nearly 60 different projects in Downtown Frederick.  Each dollar granted by the Partnership has been matched by at least one dollar in private investment – often more.  The program also has spurred neighbors to get to work on needed building improvements – sometimes without our financial support.  

Friday, June 15, 2012

Before I Die

As with most good ideas, this one came from somewhere else.  I, fortunately, am the recipient of emails, newspaper articles, magazine clippings, etc with ideas about great projects implemented in other downtowns.  I love getting great ideas, especially when the giver is willing to wait a bit for implementation.  My preference would be to do a new project everyday but the “older” items on my project list would not be very happy with that approach. 

This idea – Before I Die – is popular across the nation. In fact, one particular artist travels the country helping folks implement the project.  The Partnership took this idea on by ourselves and the results were so hopeful and fun – we certainly are going to do it again.  

We kicked off the project at our June First Saturday.  The activity is pretty simple – we provided sheets of plywood painted in chalkboard paint and gave people the space to add their thoughts.  The preamble – Before I Die – was the inspiration point.  I think the best thing about the project is seeing the hope in our community.  Most aspirations were positive – about growing, living, doing more, having more fun.  In a world that is full of negative, it was great to see hope shine.  A selected sampling of my personal favorites is listed below.  
  • Play the banjo and do a cartwheel … but not at the same time
  • Hike the AT 
  •  Let it go
  •  Live at the beach
  • Star in a horror film
  • See every Shakespeare play
What’s on your list?

Friday, June 8, 2012

Arts & Entertainment

On Tuesday of this week, I had the opportunity to attend the annual statewide Arts & Entertainment District meeting.  For those of you who don’t know, Downtown Frederick is a state designated A&E District with the accompanying benefits of tax “rebates” for artists, tax incentives for renovating places for art uses and tax abatement of entertainment related taxes.  Beyond all of that, designation is a great way to promote your downtown as an art lovin’ and art thrivin’ place – and trust me, Downtown Frederick is that.

What probably was the best thing about Tuesday was the chance to get out of dodge, take a moment, step back and really think about the arts and their impact.  The meeting this year was in Silver Spring and we were provided the opportunity to take a great tour of the district and see some of the art venues and public art.  It’s clear that the arts add that special something that takes a downtown from good to great.  Those of us in the downtown economic development industry are hoping to create great experiences for our visitors so they come downtown again and again.  Art venues and art installations make for great experiences.  For me, there is nothing like seeing someone else’s creativity to get me going again after a long week.  The weekend is approaching – if you need a rev up, go see some art downtown.