DADE CITY — With small businesses and city governments across the country struggling to balance budgets and raise money, Dade City has an organization with plans to help the city survive the recession and become stronger and more sustainable in the process.
Dade City Main Street is a not-for-profit organization founded in 1986. Since then, it has worked to build the economic development of downtown through a number of projects, including the establishment of the Community Redevelopment Agency and the disbursement of a number of facade improvement grants for local businesses.
Crystal Davenport, executive director of Main Street, said the organization has a good relationship with the CRA, a city agency also focused on building the city's economic growth.
"(We) were pretty instrumental when the CRA was forming," Davenport said. "We always have a representative on the CRA."
By distributing facade grants, helping the CRA with projects like the recent purchase of trash cans and benches and helping merchants with advertising and marketing, Davenport said Main Street is a complementary organization to city government.
"We work with city government," Davenport said. "City government doesn't have time to accomplish everything."
Karen Traenkner, the CRA director, said Main Street adds quality to the city, especially through the events it holds, like the Scarecrow Festival and Christmas Stroll.
"Hopefully when visitors come to Dade City, they gain awareness of what the city has to offer and spend money, which promotes local businesses and charities," Traenkner said. "Hopefully, they also gain awareness of what a quality city we are and consider Dade City when they want to relocate or establish a business."
Sean Ashburn, who is president of Main Street and works in retail advertising at the St. Petersburg Times, said redistributing the organization's funds for city projects is the purpose of Main Street.
"We're pretty bare bones," Ashburn said. "Most of the things in our office were all donated, and we get a lot of volunteer hours. We don't carry a surplus of any sum."
Davenport said 18 percent of the 2008- 2009 budget is made up of grants from the CRA, totaling $15,000. The rest comes from membership fees and donations.
For Ashburn, the city's success in the future depends on its evolution. This includes a new Visit Dade City Web site currently being built by Davenport, who plans for the site to be up within the next few months.
Through giving a voice to area merchants and the events Main Street holds to raise funds and build a community, Ashburn thinks Dade City Main Street is building a foundation for a sustainable Dade City.
"We're going to have to shift gears a little bit," Ashburn said. "Dade City's been able to rebound because we're a tourist town. We have to make sure we're not just a tourist town but a sustainable town for the residents."