The Portland Beacon recently conducted an email interview with Tina ConnerWellman of the Portland Downtown Development Authority and Portland Main Street. This interview sheds some light on Tina, her organization, and ongoing efforts in our downtown area.
The Portland Beacon: What is your official job title?
Tina ConnerWellman: Managing Director – Portland Downtown
TPB: Can you tell us a bit about your education and work experience?
TCW: Like many college students, I started in one direction (pre-med) and circumstances turned me in another direction (business). I started with a minor in Hospitality Management which combined with my work experience at the time (McDonalds management training) allowed me to take a position consulting in restaurant management and training for the Pillsbury Corporation. I was able to experience different cultures around the United States by working and living in Indianapolis, Denver, Tulsa, Huston and Detroit for up to 18 months at a time. When starting a family and looking for a career shift, I turned to Heartland Health & Rehabilitation in Ionia in order to be closer to family while raising ours. During this time, I earned a second degree in Business Administration with a Health Care focus. I served as the Director of Admissions and Marketing which helped me to build relationships and connections throughout our area. From there, I served as Executive Director for Ionia Area Chamber of Commerce where it was my great honor to grow the organization and serve nearly 350 business & organization members. Having achieved all that I believed I could for the organization and myself, I happily accepted my current position with Portland.
TPB: Can you tell us about your organization, and your current role there?
TCW: Portland Downtown is inclusive of Portland Downtown Development Authority (DDA) and Portland Main Street Program. Portland boasts a rich history, filled with work ethic and community pride, much of it reflected in the buildings located in the historic Kent Street area. We work with purpose and direction to preserve that history and facilitate a vibrant charming area for residents and visitors to gather.
Portland Downtown is a not-for-profit community and volunteer based program for improving Portland’s downtown between-the-rivers district, creating a viable place to operate a business, a rewarding place to live and raise a family, and a fun place for visitors and residents to connect and linger for a while. Our volunteers are comprised of an eleven person working Board of Directors, four Teams in Design, Promotions, Organization, and Business Enhancement, as well as many volunteers specific to events, programs or projects.
We work cohesively with local city government, it’s departments, and organizations to enhance everything our area has to offer. Our organization also partners with several programs; Michigan Main Street, Main Street America (accredited since 2003), National Trust for Historic Preservation and Redevelopment Ready Communities to serve as a catalyst, resource and unifying body for any projects that improve and sustain the vibrancy of our community and central business district.
My role as Managing Director is to facilitate the direction and projects the Board chooses to work on. Much of this is based on the recent 2014 DDA Plan. The rest encompasses programs and projects for the community that will help us continue to grow Portland as a family friendly community, a wonderful place to raise a family and to invite friends to. We offer the resources and support current property owners and businesses need as well as make tools available for those interested in buying property or opening a business in our area. I’ve started out focused on strengthening the foundation and structure needed to position Portland Downtown for exciting future possibilities.
TPB: What initiatives are currently underway in downtown Portland, and what is on the horizon?
TCW: We’ve been working hard these past few months on housekeeping measures with maintenance plans for our core business district. We’ve found a solution and tested it to clean awnings and entrances and made this product available to property owners and businesses. We’ve cleared weeds throughout the area and transformed Scout Park. We partnered with a local farm and St. Pats middle school students to decorate the area for fall. The iconic clock tower on Kent St received sparkling new glass.
We’re putting finishing touches on our new website ‘MiPortland’ at miportland.org. This is a virtual Portland Downtown. It provides a frequently requested community calendar where each business and organization can post their events and programs. These calendars typically see over 500 views each week. It hosts a directory of area businesses (searchable categories, address, phone, website and description, hours of operation & email when made available) and properties within the district. Business and property owners are provided with a log in to manage their listings – similar directories in same size communities enjoy nearly 800 searches a week. The site hosts resources for local and prospective businesses. There is also extensive information on the many facets of our organization and our community with an opportunity to explore and apply as a volunteer. With community, business and property owner engagement and use, the site will grow as a resource for residents and visitors alike.
Having a property and business inventory with complete contact information for each is a key component to positioning for future economic growth. We are working with an easy online survey to help us obtain information important to this project. The major barrier we’re finding is that for many of the properties and businesses in the DDA district, we have only a mailing address. If you are a key person in ownership or management of a property or business – or you know someone who is, we would greatly appreciate your assistance. Please reach out to us with your name, the property you’re associated with, phone and email so that we can provide you with a quick survey.
We are looking forward to celebrating our volunteers at our upcoming Volunteer Appreciation Night on Nov. 9. Portland Downtown volunteers who pre-register by Nov 5 will be treated to an adventure along with a ‘Taste of Portland’ featuring sweet and savory bites from local restaurants. Small Business Saturday is coming up Saturday Nov 25 – this is an opportunity to support the many small businesses who support the organizations and causes that mean something to you. Amazon, Ebay and Lansing merchants don’t give back to our community the way our local businesses do. And we’re very excited to be planning HolidayFest – we’re hoping that all the pieces will fall in place to reveal a wonderful new gift to Portland on December 9.
TPB: Where could readers find more information about these initiatives?
TCW: All of our current initiatives and ‘things to come’ can be found in our monthly newsletters ‘On the Street’ and on our new website – miportland.org. Please don’t hesitate to reach out directly to our office;
TPB: What other information would you like to share with our readers?
TCW: It is my sincere pleasure to serve the community of Portland. I love putting my energy, dedication and experience to work getting to know more of Portland’s residents and working together to build a stronger, more vibrant MiPortland. Please ‘like’ and ‘get notifications’ from our Facebook Page; Portland Michigan Main Street and bookmark our new website miportland.org I look forward to staying connected with you!