By Darrell Jackson, Glendale Star
The Glendale City Council was updated on the successes of the downtown manager’s first year by Chamber President and CEO Robert Heidt.
Katy Engels’ official title is director of downtown development, but it is more casually referred to as downtown manager.
“First-year deliverables was the introduction of (Engels) and boots on the ground with the property owners and stakeholders in downtown,” Heidt said.
“We also generated data to improve communications with the downtown merchants.”
Councilmembers consider the downtown area “the heart of any community. To create and support a vibrant city center, and to support the businesses located in Downtown Glendale.”
The downtown manager’s job has allowed the city to provide targeted and consistent support for area business owners.
The partnership’s intent is to strengthen the position of the existing commercial base in the downtown area to help attract employment and residential opportunities.
“In 2016, city staff initiated a partnership for the downtown manager,” Assistant Director of Economic Development Jessi Pederson said. “The chamber was selected to be the downtown manager and (Engels) was hired in October 2017. The contract with the chamber was for five years for $610,510.”
Engels joined the Glendale Chamber after being executive director of the Waterford, Wisconsin, Chamber of Commerce. During her time in Waterford, Engels worked directly with the small, independent merchants that make up its business community. Local and regional economic development and tourism agencies assist with revitalization efforts and have done the same over the past two years in Glendale.
The Chamber of Commerce reported it had fulfilled the first-year deliverables as required and has accomplished additional achievements for the greater benefit of downtown.
Heidt pointed to the success of data collection and getting businesses together to meet.
“Part of what (Engels) has done is to provide useful knowledge on how to grow downtown businesses,” Heidt said. “We provided meetings for business owners to grow their business through social media. The point is to give those businesses instant knowledge to make them better.”
Councilmembers praised Engels and the chamber on the success they have had over the past two years.
“I would like to thank the chamber for its diligent effort to make this a success,” Sahuaro Councilman Ray Malnar said. “It has been a tough road, but I want to congratulate you on what you have accomplished. It will take time, but I expect great things from their efforts.”
Vice Mayor Joyce Clark asked Heidt to address the numerous challenges the chamber and Engels have faced over the two years.
“There were a lot of hurdles placed upon us, so people are coming forward, but some are coming forward in a matter that hurts us,” Heidt said. “But, we have done a lot with (Engels’) sub-committees and even with people who are negative toward the downtown area; there is always a seat at the table to express their concerns.”
Heidt pointed to a number of possible changes to downtown businesses, including one where Tempe property owners were self-taxed to fund downtown area events.
“There is a way to make things sustainable for the future,” Heidt said. “We have been cautious to not come out and say business owners must pay or subscribe to (assistance) for different models. The biggest issue for our downtown has been getting everyone to the table to talk.”
With Engels’ hiring, the city no longer has to deal with calls involving the likes of code issues.
“If you ask me to look at my crystal ball, it (downtown Glendale) may never get to the Tempe model.
I don’t know if we can even get there in two to three years,” Heidt said.
Clark added, “I know how tough it has been for (Engels) and I hold out great hope that she can lead downtown businesses to not be as reliant on the city with everything in the future.”