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guest column

why downtown?
by Hailey Knight, photo by Amy Long

Hailey Knight serves as executive director for the Downtown Jonesboro Association. This month, she marks her fourth anniversary at the helm for DJA.

June 6 marks my four-year anniversary as executive director for the Downtown Jonesboro Association, and what a four years it has been.

I was fresh out of college when I had the opportunity to apply for the position of executive director for the Downtown Jonesboro Association in 2013. To be quite honest, I had no idea what Main Street programs were at that time, but I wasted no time educating myself. I immediately started to dig deep into the world of Main Street—and what a wonderful world it is.

Just a few weeks into my new job, I had the chance to visit other downtowns in Arkansas to see what they were doing and how their downtowns helped their community become a vibrant place. I couldn’t help but think, “Wow, Jonesboro has so much more to offer; we can totally do this.”
Since then, we have taken many steps toward building a thriving downtown community. During the past four years, the Downtown Jonesboro Association has been able to promote our downtown through award-winning events, provide small business technical service at no charge and facilitate grants that incite business owners to come to our Main Street. We’ve shared big wins ranging from becoming an official Main Street community to starting Alive After Five to welcoming new neighbors and installing some pretty amazing art murals. None of this could have been accomplished without the help of some driven volunteers and dedicated business owners.

With those accomplishments behind us, we are now focusing on something much bigger—something that involves all of our community. This year, we are striving to recruit more retail businesses to our Main Street. Retail sales leakage occurs when there is unsatisfied demand within a specific trading area, such as downtown. One way of addressing this issue is by providing additional spaces for certain businesses to meet the demand.

With a need for grocery stores, hobby boutiques and other miscellaneous retailers, the opportunities are endless in Downtown Jonesboro. We would love to see a flower shop or a gift store make its home in Downtown Jonesboro, and as much as my wallet would hate me, a bakery or cupcake shop would be ideal.

Existing businesses interested in having a presence downtown need not be overwhelmed by the thought of designing another merchandise area, or even coming up with a new store front idea. Our Main Street Arkansas consultants have helped design more than 20 storefronts and have provided more than 50 consultations at no cost for our downtown merchants in the past three years alone. On top of that, we have some pretty amazing neighbors down here.

However, the best part of moving to Main Street Jonesboro isn’t that you are only 1.2 miles away from A-State, or the fact that there’s been more than $5.3 million dollars invested in project rehabilitation projects in the past five years; it’s a chance to become a part of a vibrant community and provide a unique destination place in one of the best downtowns in Arkansas.

See you downtown!