by Richard Lamb–Advance Editor
Where are we now and where are we going? A series of baseline assessment meetings gave input to the Michigan Main Street (MMS) and the National Main Street (NMS) programs. The meetings, conducted Monday and Tuesday in-person at City Hall and via Zoom, gave various groups within the community the chance to tell their needs and expectations of the MMS program.
Norma Miess, senior program officer for the NMS program, facilitated the meetings designed to gather ideas to be pursued by communities in year one of the program. The overall process included three main components of community input, market information and transformation strategy identification. Miess learned a lot about the area as the various community leaders shed light on their areas of expertise, sharing both positives and needs facing a revitalization plan for downtown Rogers City.
“Many of you are going to find Main Street as an opportunity to help each other. Some of you are already skilled at some areas and by working together in committees and teams, you will see how that interaction brings those skills forward to help each other,” Miess said.
This week’s meetings were designed to have various groups take a closer look at needs and strengths within the community, Miess added. The state and national Main Street advisors could be working with Rogers City for the next three to five years, Miess said.
Those participating in the Monday meetings were the Main Street board of directors, school representatives, downtown business owners, building owners, various planning commissions, and city officials. The meetings began at 8:30 a.m. and ran until 4:45 p.m. Monday.
Groups and individuals giving input at Tuesday’s meetings were representatives from community development sources including those involved in snowmobile trails, the county airport and the Rogers City harbor. The MMS staff was scheduled to hear from representatives from Carmeuse Americas, Cadillac Products and Moran Iron Works, but only Erika Comerford from Carmeuse Americas was available for the Tuesday morning Zoom meeting.
Later meetings got input from local festivals, museums and the Presque Isle District Library. The final session Tuesday morning drew input from medical professionals.
Mayor Scott McLennan, said in Monday’s first session, that communication between business owners and citizens is essential.
“Everyone needs to be on the same page. What happens if the communication is not there, is that people will fill in the blanks with their own narratives. And those narratives spread and can cause misunderstandings,” he said. There is a need to market the community, and he suggested businesses are not necessarily in competition, but need to work together.
Assets mentioned by several over the day were the many acres of public lakeshore available, work done by many volunteer groups, the tightness of the community and the heritage of the area. Those positive points must be maximized to get the most out of what we have, several stated. Some stressed the uniqueness of the area that included the quality of the small boat harbor, the availability of a commercial harbor, the limestone quarry, historical museum, Ocqueoc Falls, the walking/biking trails and Hoeft State Park. Many said the support of existing businesses as things change, is essential.
Some mentioned that there are not enough things to do for visitors, but the setting is not too far from being ideal. Visitors rave about the local museums, trails and parks, but a common theme at the meetings was a desire for more shopping opportunities in the downtown area. The need to improve curb appeal of businesses was mentioned in several sessions. Better quality and service from motels came up in the conversations of what needs to be improved to draw visitors to the area.
Brightening up the downtown after 5 p.m. came up as a common topic of discussion.
Leigh Young, organizational specialist for MMS, said there are specialized training courses available for businesses through the program. Those will be coming to light as the city moves through the process over the coming year.
In getting comments from school representatives from the public schools, St. John Lutheran School and Alpena Community College, the national representative heard how the schools interact with the business community and ideas for better connections.
“Ground is fertile for connecting the business community to the schools,” Miess said.
Next up for the MMS program will be an online community survey that will run from Jan. 3-21, 2022. Following that, a community meeting is tentatively set for Feb. 9, 2022 with a follow-up meeting set for the next day with the local MMS board.
McLennan said “six or seven” applicants have been received for the position of executive director for the MMS program. Applicants have until Dec. 31 to apply. So far, McLennan said, approximately $210,000 has been raised from private sources to fund the temporary position.