By Darrell Jackson
Two years after taking the job of downtown development director, Katy Engels is continuing her success of bringing local businesses together.
“The first half of my first year on the job was challenging in the sense of learning the politics that went along with the position,” Engels said.
“I expected there to be some challenges with this being a new contract for the city and with me being new to the community. There are a lot of passionate merchants and stakeholders that embraced me and my position while others felt my position wasn’t needed or wanted.”
The second half of the first year, she worked hard to improve communication and build subcommittees to understand downtown area’s needs.
“I believe we are taking the right steps to help make downtown a more economically sustainable downtown,” Engels said.
“I’ve enjoyed getting to meet everyone and finding out their wants, needs and visions. I believe the toughest part of my job is not being able to give everyone everything they want or what they feel they deserve.”
Engels joined the Glendale Chamber of Commerce after being executive director of the Waterford, Wisconsin, Chamber of Commerce. In Wisconsin, she worked directly with the community’s small, independent merchants, as well as local and regional economic development and tourism agencies to assist with revitalization efforts.
Glendale City Council voted unanimously in 2017 to approve a five-year contract for $610,510 for the creation of a new downtown manager position that would fall under the supervision of Glendale Chamber of Commerce in a public-private partnership.
As she begins her third year on the job, Engels points to three issues she will focus on trying to improve in the downtown area. The first is working with the strategic leadership advisory group to move downtown forward with branding efforts. That will make it a vibrant and thriving area for shopping, dining and entertainment, she said.
“Also, I’d like to work with merchants and the city to develop brand cohesiveness and jointly promote Experience Downtown Glendale to help bring more people to downtown Glendale for experiential experiences,” she said.
“I will also work with the city’s economic development office and develop a listing of available spaces/property for sale or lease and share this on the downtown website so potential property owners/merchants can see what is available at any given time. The Safety and Beautification Advisory groups are championing this effort to help reduce the number of vacant storefronts.”
Glendale Chamber of Commerce recently reported to councilmembers that Engels had fulfilled the first-year deliverables as required and has accomplished additional achievements for the greater benefit of downtown.
Glendale Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Robert Heidt pointed to the success of data collection and getting businesses together in discussions at numerous meetings.
“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 and the point is to give those businesses instant knowledge to put into place to make them better.”
Engels said she also hopes to get more promotion from outside downtown to help improve foot traffic to the area.
“I see more outside promoters hosting their events in downtown Glendale; more visitors, new businesses opening their doors, and the downtown community continuing to be collectively engaged,” Engels said.
However, she cites improving communication among city staff, business owners and the chamber as her greatest success.
“I believe this first year’s success is getting into place an organization of like-minded people that wasn’t there a year prior. Communication has been key in making this happen,” Engels said.
“The downtown businesses and stakeholders meet monthly and advisory groups have been formed from these meetings, i.e., Strategic Leadership Advisory Group, Safety and Beautification Advisory Group, Signature Events Advisory Group, and Events Advisory Group, all specific to downtown issues and needs.”