Providing resources for communities and entrepreneurs to create and retain jobs in Antrim, Charlevoix & Cheboygan Counties.

How DDAs can maximize downtown marketing

Northern Lakes Economic Alliance  •  231-582-6482  •

Amanda Baker, Downtown Development Coordinator

Few buzzwords are quite as big right now as Downtown Marketing and it has us all wondering, how can we best market our downtowns?

The City of Charlevoix recently leveraged their Main Street Community status to market their community through the Michigan Main Street Photo Contest.

It’s difficult to begin a marketing campaign without knowing the needs of the community. Conduct a market analysis to determine what is missing in your community, and actively recruit to fill those voids. Start with the Networks Northwest Commercial Corridor Inventories published in 2014 to determine the growth and investment in your county. Once you know the need, you can focus on campaigns that meet those needs.

Two major factors that play into any successful marketing campaign are time and money. As a volunteer board with limited funds, Downtown Development Authorities (DDAs) need to find ways to leverage their resources for maximum impact. One great way to do this is to partner with other downtown stakeholders. The East Jordan DDA is teaming up with the East Jordan Area Chamber of Commerce to begin a community-wide marketing team. By pooling input, resources, and marketing budgets from the DDA, Chamber, Schools, and other community groups, this bank of volunteers and staff will save time and money with a collaborative marketing approach.

Communities like Boyne City use their engagement in the Main Street program to organize their collective efforts. Bring It Cheboygan! recently leveraged their nearly 70 volunteers for Cheboygan, Michigan to become a Main Street city, and gained momentum leading up to the program. While the Main Street program isn’t a perfect fit for all communities, taking elements from their model can help any community organize volunteers and goals into a cohesive unit.

Another approach to downtown marketing from a development angle is the Michigan Economic Development Corporation’s Redevelopment Ready Communities (RRC) program. RRC focuses on streamlining the municipal process for businesses and developers to come into your town. Through 6 best practices, cities establish their process and available incentives, identify properties that are prime for redevelopment, and market those properties to developers throughout the state. Engaged communities can take advantage of the annual Opportunity Michigan publication to feature their sites in a statewide marketing push.

With these helpful programs, tools, and new information as a guide, community needs can be met collaboratively and goals can be accomplished.

For best practices and questions on how to market your downtown call NLEA at 231-582-6482 or email

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