Downtown Thursday

Downtown Thursday, pictured here, was one of many projects Shirley Schultz helped bring to life in downtown Owatonna during her time as the MainStreet director. The position has remained vacant since Schultz’s retirement this summer. (File photo/southernminn.com)

Various people have had to take on extra duties behind the scenes to entice people to come downtown. City officials are still unsure of who will take on the role.

The Owatonna Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism is still deciding on what to do with the MainStreet position after the retirement of former director, Shirley Schultz, this past summer.

President Brad Meier said that as of now they are working closely with the city to evaluate what the position should be. Whether the position should remain part time or upgrade to full time are among discussions, as well as a general conversation about what the position should look like overall before the hiring process begins.

Owatonna has a contract with the city’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) which expires at the end of each year. Community Development Director Troy Klecker said that after Schultz’s retirement, it wouldn’t have been beneficial to fill the position so close to the end of the contract.

“With all of the projects going on downtown, this happened to be a pretty good time to be without someone filling this position,” Klecker said. “Shirley did a great job of getting things underway before she left.”

Most short term goals and projects were either completed or already started before the position was vacated. Klecker said that in the long term aspect is where someone will be needed.

Because there is no EDA meeting for November, city officials have plenty of time to iron out the details of the contract to make sure all people and organizations involved are on the same page for the vision of what the position will be, duties involved and how the position should be funded if it switched to full time.

Klecker said the benefits of making this position full time is that it has the potential to attract more people to apply for a broader range of prospects. It will also benefit the community in that someone will be available consistently for the public and affiliate organizations to contact.

Members of the chamber, city, and downtown groups have been helping out with the various duties the MainStreet director would normally handle.

“We’re doing what we can with the pieces of the puzzle until we can get someone hired,” Meier said. “For now we’re just lining up the right skill sets with an appropriate person.”

For instance, the person in this position is traditionally in charge of coordinating the Holiday Lighted Parade, so this part of the job currently falls under the umbrella of the events director, Julia Seykora.

The MainStreet position is responsible for a variety of things throughout the downtown area of Owatonna. The common goal for the position is to help downtown thrive for local businesses and members of the community.

They are also working closely with revitalizing downtown by collaborating with local and national organizations such as the EDA, MainStreet America and Rethos to ensure that Owatonna’s downtown is thriving. These partnerships ensure that vacant businesses are continuously filled and improvements are consistently being discussed and made to make the historic downtown district look and feel inviting.

MainStreet America was established in 1980 with a goal to help improve historic downtowns. Owatonna is one of over 2,000 communities across the country who have participated in programs through this organization to help preserve and develop older historic buildings in downtown areas.

Rethos is a nonprofit organization working with cities nationwide to preserve historic downtowns. According to their website, they believe that “old buildings, culture and small businesses are the foundation for communities to flourish.”

According to organizations such as Rethos and MainStreet America, historic downtown areas such as Owatonna’s are vital to the economic health, quality of life, community pride, and recruitment of industrial, commercial, and professional businesses. A vibrant downtown Owatonna benefits everyone and benefits the entire community.

Reach reporter Emily Kahnke at 507-444-2376. ©Copyright 2021 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All rights reserved.

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