What is the Downtown Kingsport Association?
What exactly is it that you do? What is Main Street? We hear questions like this quite often and are so excited to be able to explain what we do and what our role is in the Kingsport community. In a nutshell, we are the “neighborhood association” for the Downtown Business District. We are a certified Main Street program that is recognized by the state and at the national level. We follow the 4-point Main Street approach which is a unique preservation-based economic development tool that enables communities to revitalize downtown and neighborhood business districts by leveraging local assets. These assets range from historic, cultural, and architectural resources to local businesses and community pride. Our board and membership is made up of community volunteers and stakeholders that serve on each of the four points of the program. The four committees are Organization, Design, Promotion and Economic Restructuring.
The Organization committee establishes consensus and cooperation by building partnerships among the various groups that have a stake in the commercial district. We recruit board members and volunteers that are charged with raising money for the program through fundraising, membership drives and donations. The DKA office served as the headquarters for the July 17 flood last year and was able to raise over $65,000 in support to distribute appropriately to over 17 businesses that were affected by the flood. We hold an annual dinner each year which is our primary fundraiser that helps us sustain our program.
The Promotion committee takes many forms, but the main goal is to create a positive image that will rekindle community pride and improve consumer and investor confidence in the Downtown business district. We coordinate different advertising campaigns and then match our members advertising dollars. We also coordinate retail promotions, commercials and special events like open houses and last year’s highly successful Holiday Loft Tours. The DKA also started the concert series 15 years ago and it is still thriving today and managed through the Kingsport convention and visitors bureau.
The Design committee’s goal is getting the Downtown business district into top physical shape and creating a safe, inviting environment for shoppers, workers, and visitors. We educate and encourage business and property owners to take advantage of façade grants to improve their buildings. We plant flowers downtown each year to brighten and welcome customers and visitors. We coordinate bench sponsorship to replace the old wooden ones that are outdated. We also apply for state and federal grants to implement street scape projects. This year we installed 17 dog waste stations to keep our downtown clean and healthy and we are in the process of installing two “parklets” (see above picture) on Broad Street to encourage people to come and eat downtown.
The Economic restructuring committee’s role is to focus on strengthening our community’s existing economic assets while diversifying its economic base. This is accomplished by retaining and expanding successful businesses to provide a balanced commercial mix, sharpening the competitiveness and merchandising skills of business owners, and attracting and recruiting new businesses that the market can support. We work with the small businesses and help them market and advertise themselves to be able to compete with the “big box” stores. We also have three new restaurants locating on Broad Street with extended business hours and two businesses have already expanded into larger buildings. We have also developed a retail and restaurant recruiting brochure. (If we were awarded this grant we would use it to go toward the printing of said brochure.)
Our organization has been in business since 1974 and began as a merchant association. However, when Main Street was founded in 1980, Kingsport became one of the first in the state of Tennessee to become a designated and certified Main Street community. We are proud to serve our community and we enjoy working with small businesses. Just like small businesses have challenges we experience them too. As a not for profit we are always faced with raising money and competing with other non-profits for those same dollars. We appreciate this opportunity Kingsport Digital has provided to give us a chance to win these dollars. If we were to win, we would invest it back into the downtown business district; the core a