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April 8, 2008

 

Managing Main Street

Downtown Partnership director builds on his momentum

Purdy

Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
Lloyd Purdy, shown here in December, is entering his third year as Cortland’s downtown manager.

By AIMEE MILKS
Staff Reporter
amilks@cortlandstandard.net

Entering his third year as the executive director of the Cortland Downtown Partnership, Lloyd Purdy has high hopes for the future of historic downtown but is looking for more financial support from local businesses to keep the partnership going.
In 2009, the organization will no longer receive a state grant it has been using to operate. As a result, the Cortland Downtown Partnership will rely more heavily on membership fees from local business and property owners.
There are more than 150 businesses in the Central Downtown District alone, but the Cortland Downtown Partnership only has 60 members, which include both downtown businesses and businesses throughout the county.
Each member pays a $250 annual fee to support the Cortland Downtown Partnership’s activities and Purdy, it’s one and only staff member.
Paul Lorenzo, owner of Cortland Bookkeeping and Tax Service at 32 Tompkins St. and member of the Downtown Partnership, said it is unfortunate only 60 businesses have pledged financial support.
“Believe me, downtown has been a different place since they (the Cortland Downtown Partnership) came,” Lorenzo said. “It would be a big step backwards if we lose that. The membership fee isn’t cheap, but what they’re doing is important.”
Although his business does not directly benefit from the events and activities the partnership has brought to Cortland, Steve Cinquanti, owner of Cinquanti Realty, is also a member, paying the annual fee because he believes it is important.
“I think the work of the Downtown Partnership has done a lot to improve downtown Cortland. If nothing else, it’s changed the attitude of downtown and picked up the spirit. It makes Cortland a nicer place to live,” he said. “There are certain building blocks to the quality of life in a community and downtown is part of that.”
Cinquanti added that it would be unfortunate if the Downtown Partnership did not have enough support from local businesses to remain a stable, functioning organization.
“The future of the Downtown Partnership is intimately tied to the future of downtown Cortland,” Purdy said. “We’re working on introducing new residential options, new businesses. As long as the downtown stakeholders agree that we need to work together toward developing a better downtown, I expect them to support the Downtown Partnership. It will take more support and continued hard work from the Downtown Partnership for the next two to three years.”
The Cortland Downtown Partnership was established in October 2005 when the Downtown Business Association and the Cortland City Improvement Corp. consolidated their efforts. Purdy was hired in April 2006.
In 2007 and 2008, the Downtown Partnership has received $25,000 from Sen. Jim Seward (R-Milford) to help launch the organization; another $25,000 is expected to come in 2009. Originally, the money from Seward was supposed to fund the organization from 2006 to 2008.
“We didn’t get the money from the state the first year, so the funding doesn’t actually coincide with the actual operating year,” Purdy said. “So the first eight months were very lean and challenging, as it is with any new startup business and the Cortland Downtown Partnership has very much acted as a start-up enterprise.”
Following the last $25,000 in state funding, the Downtown Partnership must remain self-sustainable, using the membership fees and the money the organization gets from running the city parking permit program.
Thus far in 2008, the Downtown Partnership has collected $1,200 from the city parking permit program, which issues permits to park in city lots, and will get to keep approximately 40 percent of that money. The remainder of the money goes back to the city, and Purdy said the Downtown Partnership’s portion is used for downtown beautification projects.
Purdy said the Downtown Partnership has an annual budget of approximately $60,000, which includes his salary, which is in the upper $20,000 range. Of the $60,000, $25,000 comes from the state grant, and will not be available to the Downtown Partnership after 2009. The remainder of the money is revenue.
To offset the state funds the organization will no longer receive, Purdy said the executive board would be looking into creating an investment portfolio, which is essentially an endowment fund.
The board will be meeting this week to discuss its approach and begin looking at how to develop and fund an investment portfolio.
Purdy added that the Downtown Partnership will continue to write grant applications to find specific projects, like the grant application for $200,000 the organization submitted in March for money to improve the facades and interiors of downtown buildings.
“Over the last two years, we’ve proven the Downtown Partnership has a very positive impact on the whole Cortland community. We’ve helped attract over $850,000 from outside into the community, (and) introduced new events that have brought thousands of people downtown,” Purdy said. “We currently have 60 members that obviously realize the work we’re doing not only benefits downtown, but the entire community.”
“I know they do a lot more than the events, but they are the most visible,” said John Mason, a senior vice president at Alliance Bank. “It gives the community kind of a focal point … and there is an economic benefit. Things like the downtown music festival get people to come out and gives exposure to downtown restaurants and retailers.”
Purdy said the job has been a lot more difficult than he expected.
“The job description has certainly evolved to fill the needs of this community. It’s hard to be an army of one,” Purdy said. “We only have funding for one staff and I have to do everything from marketing to bookkeeping, recruitment, gaining support and most importantly setting a vision for downtown. What we’re doing is one part economic development, one part community development, one part historic preservation, one part marketing and promotion, and I have to fundraise to make that all happen.”

City, downtown get $105K marketing grant

The National Park Service has awarded a $105,000 Preserve America grant to Cortland to help market its historic downtown in concert with the various cultural events that take place year-round.
The award of the matching grant was announced during a conference call Monday morning. A total of $10 million was distributed to 43 projects, with New York state receiving nearly $365,000.
The Cortland Downtown Partnership applied for the grant in December and will work with the Cortland County Convention and Visitors Bureau and the city of Cortland in administrating the grant funding.
The grant will be matched locally using the marketing budgets of events, celebrations and festivals held downtown, said Cortland Downtown Partnership Director Lloyd Purdy.
Purdy said $143,000 is spent each year on marketing a dozen downtown events, such as the ninth Annual Brockway Truck Show in August, the second Annual Arts and Wine Festival in August, and the partnership’s own Taste of Downtown event during the annual sidewalk sales in July.
The Preserve America grant would be used to market downtown Cortland in a way that would connect its historic buildings with its cultural events.
Purdy said the marketing would be targeted to a “regional, if not national” audience.
He said more than 30,000 people visit downtown throughout the summer festivals and events.
“We see more and more people coming to these events from outside this zip code,” Purdy said, referring to on-the-street surveys conducted during the events.
According to the grant application, the Cortland Downtown Partnership would hire a marketing consultant to help develop a “comprehensive and integrated” marketing plan. Purdy said that marketing firms would participate in a competitive bidding process for the contract.
The grant money would also be used to develop an updated guide for a historic downtown walking tour. The current guide, put out by the Cortland County Historical Society, is in black and white and contains few pictures. Purdy said it would benefit the community to develop professional walking tour material.
New marketing and walking tour materials should be developed by summer 2009, Purdy said.
— Evan Geibel