The WRAP director hopes to hire someone by next week.
By AMANDA C. DAVIS
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
WARREN -- It's down to three candidates for the new position of Main Street coordinator.
Mike Keys, director of Warren Redevelopment and Planning, said a committee has pared a list of 21 or so applicants for the position to facilitate downtown development.
Keys said he hopes to fill the position by the first week of July, following second-round interviews.
The advertised salary range is $22,000 to $25,000, depending on experience.
Qualifications: Keys said the committee is looking for someone with experience in marketing, public relations, event planning and business development. The person must be a Warren resident or willing to move here.
Keys said the top three candidates are Warren residents. He declined to name them.
"We need the best candidate for the position," he said. "People have to realize we need to make a choice and a lot of times it's not the politically favored one."
WRAP bylaws say employees must live in Warren. Keys said the board in May discussed changing that requirement, but didn't act on it.
Office: For now, the new hire will work under Keys in WRAP's office on South Main Street, but Keys said a few downtown business owners have offered free space downtown to house the coordinator's office.
That might be a possibility in the future, Keys said, explaining that for now, WRAP will fund the position, with hopes it will be self-sustaining within three years.
The coordinator will handle programming for downtown events, promotions and advertising and will work with business owners to address their concerns.
He or she will survey vacant downtown buildings and help out with plans for the Riverwalk project and for renovation of the Robins Theater.
"Part of what we have to realize is that downtowns are always changing," Keys said.
Development: Terry McBane and his wife Peggy own One Communications on West Market Street downtown.
If the coordinator is successful in bringing people downtown, either through new businesses or events such as festivals, McBane said he'll be satisfied because it would mean more tourist dollars.
The nonprofit WRAP has been centered on downtown development but was never designated a Main Street community, a program of Downtown Ohio Inc., which focuses on downtown revitalization and preservation.
Promotion: The Columbus-based nonprofit organization administers the Main Street program, focusing on organization, design, promotion and economic restructuring.
Bob Fowler, owner of Frame Depot on state Route 422, said it's to his advantage to be outside the downtown area.
He is president of Business Connections, a group of area retailers and merchants who meet in Warren to network with other business owners.
A downtown coordinator will have to work hard to attract more people to the "struggling" downtown, Fowler said, noting the majority of those who go downtown work there.
Neil Norton, owner of Richard's Shoes on North Park Avenue, disagrees, saying business is good for him and his wife, Nancy.
Needs: To be successful in locating businesses downtown, he said, the coordinator must first identify the community's needs.
He and his wife have owned Richard's since 1984, but the store has been in Warren almost 50 years.
"In order to market a downtown, you have to redevelop a downtown," Nancy Norton said.
Downtowns are the flavor and identity of a community, she said, and independent businesses are important "because it separates you from Anywhere U.S.A."