DRISCOLL – Planning, Collaboration, Entrepreneurs And Hard Work
Today we post the answer to our mayoral question from incumbent Kim Driscoll. The question was as follows.
“Salem has drawn a lot of new residents and restaurants to its downtown over the last ten or more years and continues to do so. Do you have thoughts on what can be done to attract small to medium sized, professional, non-food or hospitality related businesses to Salem?”
Over the course of the last decade Salem has become the unofficial hub of the north shore, with an array of new businesses, festivals and events in and around the City. Eleven years ago, there was only a fraction of the small businesses that make our downtown so vibrant today. This did not happen by accident and took planning, collaboration, and hard work by many city stakeholders, including local government, local property owners, organizations like the Chamber, Salem Main Streets and the Salem Redevelopment Authority, along with public and private institutions.
We value collaboration and communication and have worked together to forge a strong downtown action plan aimed at making it easier to open a business in Salem. Moreover, we are always interested in working with our existing small business community on improving the environment for success in Salem – be that through our economic development ombudsman or helping with tax incentive programs and permitting assistance.
Some areas of focus for the future would be to continue supporting festivals and events. Events like the Salem Farmers Market, The Salem Arts Festival and Salem So Sweet help to bring people downtown where they can experience new retail offerings. Supporting pop up events and open markets can lead to the opening of ‘brick and mortar’ shops. We have examples of that happening in Salem and would love to encourage more of that transition.
Working with commercial property owners and existing business owners on a collaborative recruitment effort of retailers operating in other cities, aimed at filling vacancies with businesses that would compliment existing stores within the central business district. This could also help to attract retail to storefronts on entrance corridors.
Developing strategies to work with landlords in support of shared space, co-retailing and/or smaller sized retail options could also prove helpful. With the success of on line retail sales it can be difficult to maintain the inventory required of a larger retail location and smaller spaces would allow more independently owned micro-retailers to locate in Salem.
A robust public-private ‘shop local’ campaign that makes residents more aware of existing retail options, as well as the benefits of supporting local small businesses would be extremely beneficial to Salem, along with additional regional marketing of the city as a shopping and dining destination. Redirecting some of the existing marketing dollars to promote Salem locally as a destination for shopping and dining, especially if it could be combined with stores opening later in the evening could prove very worthwhile.
Support for additional housing in and along downtown corridors will also help to improve the demand for more and varied shopping options within the city. The new housing units being developed will be home to year round customers who we will want to encourage to shop locally.
Leveraging existing partners like the Salem State Enterprise Center and fostering strong collaboration with our tech community through the efforts of InnoNorth and others, along with recruiting more shared workspace options, like Work Bar, will help us to attract more small to medium size professional office options.
Continuing to make to easy to park, walk, and bike downtown are also high on our list of not only helping the retail environment, but improving the livability and quality of life within Salem, in general.
While our local economy is strong and vibrant, with entrepreneurs opening up exciting new ventures in our downtown, on our waterfront, and along our entrance corridors, we know there are more opportunities to grow our small business environment, including retail and service businesses that want to come to Salem and join in that success.