We are enthused by the way downtown Harbor Springs business interests seem to be eyeing the future.
Rather than just accepting the status quo, and paying lip-service to change, business people who gathered recently to discuss the downtown's future drew a pretty exacting bead on what they think is a weak spot -- perception of vibrancy.
But is it too exclusive, too wealthy, too focused on resorters?
Business people were asking each other how to broaden the community's appeal when the long-dormant downtown development board met recently in a strategy session. Throughout the meeting, board members discussed the need for more entertainment options, more dining options, downtown lodging and night life. Repeatedly, discussions came back to attracting and keeping young people's interest in Harbor Springs.
Here in the north, locals will tell you downtowns roll up the sidewalks in the offseason -- it's no secret that summer is where the money's at. That's true, to some degree, all over this area. Heck, Harbor actually pokes fun at the situation when it hosts an annual Main Street bowling event over spring break.
The Harbor merchants, though, are saying, "we need to do something" about the perception that nothing is happening in Harbor.
While the Harbor folks have not yet formulated an action plan, the business people did take note of the following conditions:
-- Young people, including families, may feel there's nothing to do, nothing to keep them in town. They want and need more Harbor options, year-round.
-- Attracting such people and keeping their attention is key to a vibrant community.
-- Harbor is perceived as too expensive and too exclusive.
-- Competition is strength. The business community needs to actively recruit new businesses.
Downtown board members include Andy Bultman, Matthew Clarke, mayor Al Dika, Robert Mossburg, Jeff Graham, Mary Ellen Hughes, Darrell Lavender, Pam Pfeifle, Kathie Breighner, Josh Baker and city manager/ex-officio Tom Richards. Give them your thoughts.
A downtown development authority has the power to initiate special taxes and assessments. While these are options such a board can use to energize a downtown, we believe a collective vision for the future is the board's most valuable tool. That visioning process is rejuvenating in Harbor.
We are impressed by the candor displayed at the recent meeting and encouraged that board members recognize there is always room for improvement, even in paradise.