Bismarck’s Downtowners is starting a new organization to “take downtown to the next level.”
Downtown Bismarck Partnership is being formed, in association with the Downtowner’s nonprofit community foundation, to fund and assist in talent attraction and retention efforts and larger downtown economic development projects.
“Downtown development opportunities now require more data to be successful,” said Kate Herzog, of the Downtowners.
So the group hopes to fund data gathering and analysis developers need to make projects happen.
Partners are being asked for a three-year commitment of a $5,000 investment in the organization annually. Investments will fund market research, staff time to do that research and marketing campaigns.
For example, Milwaukee’s downtown organization completed a downtown market profile in 2016 that serves as a “go-to resource for the business, development and brokerage communities as well as for city officials and various associations,” the organization’s website reads. In the profile are demographic data points, such as number of residents, employees and visitors in downtown, as well as available office, residential, retail and hospitality space.
In Bismarck, that could include analyzing permit data, sales tax figures and vacancy rates with a downtown, rather than city-wide focus.
“The low-hanging fruit has already been plucked,” said Herzog, adding the Downtowners feel more data gathering is necessary to keep its revitalization on track.
In terms of marketing, the group aims to create an indirect marketing campaign. They used Grand Forks’ “Cooler than you think” campaign as an example. Herzog said they want content that family and friends can share to tell others why they choose to live in Bismarck and what makes it a great place.
Herzog said a campaign like this could help bring new residents to the area to fill jobs.
The new partnership, in the next year, also could fund a housing preferences study and downtown housing inventory, asking people what they want for housing and what needs to be done to fill that demand.
Finally, Herzog said the organization is in talks to form a “town and gown” relationship to integrate university students more into the community.
“We could be more of a college town than we are,” she said.
Fargo is another city in the state that has formed a downtown partnership organization.
Dave Anderson, the organization’s first director, said, when he took over, the partnership was creating the building blocks and framework for downtown revitalization, identifying gaps and creating initiatives to fill them.
Since then, he said Fargo’s downtown has evolved and the organization’s recently hired third director has a mature program to take care of that is accustomed to long-standing programming and activities.
“Bismarck has done a lot of things quite well,” said Anderson, adding he thinks existing businesses will give the organization a boost in reaching its goals.