SYKESVILLE -- Six years ago the town Planning Commission embarked on a revitalization of Main Street, with the vision of making downtown the center of commerce and trade it once was.
Now, the Main Street Master Plan is 80 percent complete, but one major project remains: hiring a part-time Main Street coordinator to market the downtown area.
"We're looking for someone who has a lot of energy, marketing experience, and is people-oriented with expertise in promotional kind of work," said Town Manager James L. Schumacher.
"The idea behind hiring a coordinator would be, first, to get shoppers downtown and, second, to bring in new businesses as needed," he said.
The coordinator also would keep a list of potential businesses to bring into downtown when an opening occurred.
"There's a large turnover in small businesses, and the problem is getting new business back in town," he said. "You're always going to have a certain percentage that's going to fail."
Sykesville Business Association members, concerned with bringing more business into the area, approached the Town Council on July 13 to ask for help in acquiring money to hire a coordinator.
"We're asking for a marketing study to come up with a theme for downtown businesses to get businesses committed to the downtown area," said Dick Norris, SBA's president. "We want an independent study to tell us what would work downtown."
SBA members also need to band together for an advertising promotional campaign in the Baltimore-Washington metropolitan area to bring people into the town, said Bruce Greenberg of Greenberg's Publishing.
Jack Saum, co-owner of Baldwin's Restaurant, described how he used an advertising agency to promote the business, which is housed in a 19th-century train station. He also has been attending functions that disperse information on such programs to try to find grant or other money to pay for the coordinator.
That's the main problem for the town and the SBA -- finding money to pay for a coordinator and implementing a plan he or she develops.
At the council meeting, several ideas were discussed, including applying for grant money and employing the services of a college or university marketing department.
The town and the SBA will be meeting to discuss proposals and decide the best way to go about finding a Main Street coordinator. Both are eager to complete the master plan, which has boosted the town in recent years.
Here are some of the projects in the master plan:
* Historic area designation -- This was passed in 1991 to preserve the Victorian character of downtown buildings.
* Design street-scapes -- Using specific design standards for signs, benches and lighting.
* Parking lots -- New parking spaces were established behind both sides of Main Street for employees and shoppers.
* Infrastructure improvements -- A new storm drain system helped alleviate flooding during storms.