Digital River Project committee members served as guest speakers during the Gallia County Chamber of Commerce First Friday meeting to discuss their efforts over the past year in assisting businesses and helping to improve the downtown area.
In addition to facilitating wireless access in the Gallipolis City Park, the committee was also responsible for kickstarting the successful The Hoop Project and assisting both new and existing businesses in various projects.
Assisting existing businesses
Member Patrick Saunders discussed the B&E Shoe Repair renovation project, during which the committee assisted the longstanding business in making renovations to their building. Those renovations included new flooring, a new sign and new countertop.
Saunders, Robbie Pugh and Josh Bodimer decided to approach existing businesses about their needs to help build relations with the community and give citizens an idea of what the committee is able to accomplish.
One of those businesses the trio visited was B&E Shoe Repair.
“We knew they had a rich history,” said Saunders. “They’ve been here for many, many years. A lot of folks know about B&E Shoe Repair and you do not understand the amount of foot traffic that B&E Shoe Repair gets on a daily basis.”
Saunders said they talked to the owners, who simply said they were overworked and unable to make needed repairs to the building.
“They were fixing shoes. They weren’t fixing their facility,” said Saunders.
The committee pulled together and the members pitched in to complete the work themselves under the supervision and with the assistance of a local general contractor.
“We didn’t want to go out and hire a contractor to spruce up their building. We thought it was important we do it ourselves,” said Pugh.
Saunders said the project created a buzz in the community about the DRP, which was one of their goals. Regional media coverage of the renovation efforts attracted new applicants for the DRP’s business assistance program.
In addition, the DRP was able to assist local business Creative Arts Lifestyle with purchasing a piece of equipment that facilitated job growth within the company.
Shop Local Saturday
Committee member Megan Barnes said the group also advertised and supported Small Business Saturday in an effort to boost business in the downtown area.
“This year, we’re planning a bigger initiative to get people downtown to shop,” said Barnes.
Small Business Saturday is a national event scheduled this year for November 30.
The Hoop Project
Most recently, the DRP was behind the inaugural 3-on-3 basketball tournament in downtown Gallipolis named “The Hoop Project.” The tournament was Pugh’s idea and was co-chaired by Barnes. Both Pugh and Barnes have traveled to play in tournaments themselves and thought it would be a good way to attract traffic to the downtown area and provide recreation within the City of Gallipolis.
Pulling from their own experiences, Pugh and Barnes worked to make The Hoop Project different and better than other tournaments they had visited.
“It was a great turn out. I can’t say enough about what this did for our community,” said Barnes.
Pugh said they didn’t know what to expect and had been told other groups had tried to bring in tournaments without success. While the group went in with no set goals in mind as far as the number of participants, the tournament ended up attracting 65 teams from three states.
With the goal in mind of supporting businesses, the committee did not ask businesses to help sponsor, though some businesses did show their support on their own. In addition, the committee did not schedule food vendors at the tournament in the hopes of driving participants to the local restaurants for meals.
Their efforts paid off, with both the Parkfront Diner and Courtside Bar &Grill expressing their appreciation publicly of the DRP and The Hoop Project’s positive effect on their respective businesses that weekend.
“I think we accomplished our goal with that and we hope to do The Hoop Project again in the future,” said Pugh.
Business support programs
Saunders said all the projects are designed to bring foot traffic to the downtown area and let the community know the committee is trying to be involved and improve downtown Gallipolis.
The DRP, thanks to donations from several area businesses, has programs in place to assist new businesses in moving into the downtown area. They are currently in the process of streamlining the application process to make it easier for those businesses to apply for funding.
“We want a business to know when they want to come into here, that we’re not only willing to help, but that we’re going to treat them in a professional manner,” said Saunders.
The DRP will also assist existing businesses in the Digital River Project area if possible.
“We’ve got a great downtown. There’s a lot of excitement going on and we feel like we can really help,” said DRP committee president Jimmy Wiseman. “But we (need) to have people come to us and tell us where they need help.”
For more information on the Digital River Project, as well as information on the requirements to apply for assistance, visit www.digitalriverproject.org.