When my friend Deb Brown started as Chamber of Commerce director for Webster City, Iowa, they had too many empty buildings. Rather than try to hide that fact, Deb put on a tour of empty buildings. The idea was to clean up buildings and show them off to potential new business owners.
Read about how she did it here: The Tour of Empty Buildings.
Recently, Deb put together this list of changes over the past year:
- Chalfant Plumbing building was bought by Neighbors and they are a new business in town,
- Melanie Plain is opening a health related business at 1415 Superior,
- Fiscella’s Fine Baked Foods, El Paisita Family Mexican restaurant location #2, and MaidRite are three new restaurants in town,
- The old Public Health office purchased by Iglesia de Dios Pentacostal church,
- A new women’s clothing and purse store owned by Diana and Laura is going into the Resale by Fras Location and will be open June 21,
- Trendzy’s and La Bendicion Mexican Grocery Store has gone into the old Jazzys,
- SOS Vintage bought a building and moved their business here,
- The Webster City Movie Theater is on track to re-open in September,
- The Kayser Law Office building has been bought —
“and all of those buildings were empty in April of 2014 and were on the Tour of Empty Buildings. One year later they have businesses in them.”
That’s a pretty astounding success in just a year. Was it only because of the Tour? No, of course not! Lots and lots of additional hard work by the business owners, building owners, and by the chamber and economic development leaders in the town was required. Would all this have happened without the Tour to breathe some life into things? Probably not.
If your town has too many empty buildings, maybe a tour of them is a good idea for you, too.
Deb and I have put together a Toolkit to help you run your own Tour. You can get the details at the Tour of Empty Buildings Toolkit.
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