Incentives suggested for downtown businesses

By REBECCA LEFTWICH Downtown areas should be treated as industries with incentives offered to its small businesses, Danny Bivins of the University of Georgia's Fanning Institute told the City of Newnan Downtown Development Authority. Bivins, a public service associate, presented the findings of an 18-month study conducted by the Georgia Cities Foundation, the Georgia Municipal Association and the Fanning Institute to DDA members at their meeting Wednesday. He praised the board's approval of a visioning plan outlining one, three and five-year goals as a crucial aspect of ensuring the viability of a downtown area.
"You guys have an amazing downtown," Bivins said. "You need a vision, a plan and leadership to be successful, and that's exactly what I recommend." Citing the study, Bivins said more small business development is needed and not enough value is placed on downtowns or DDAs. "Downtown should be treated like any economic enterprise or new industry," he said. "Collectively, Georgia's downtowns create more jobs than the Kia plant, but there are no incentives for downtown. There is also a personal aspect when small businesses have to lay off employees. If Kia has to lay off 1,200 employees, it's just numbers." Bivins said ensuring the quality of homes and schools around downtown areas protects those areas. "Live needs to come before work and play," he said. "If you want to have a community around downtown, you need to support the neighborhoods and schools around them. If you have people living and shopping around downtown, you're going to have a vibrant community that doesn't stop at five o'clock." The study also found more technical assistance and innovation in adapting to changing trends is needed to keep downtowns thriving, and that community branding and partnerships with other area organizations is key as well. "You all need to be in agreement and marching in the same direction," said Bivins, who urged cooperation between mayors, city councils, DDAs, chambers of commerce and historical preservation groups. In other business, the DDA: • Adopted the DDA's planning session report from February as a visioning plan. • Passed a motion to move forward with banners for the city. • Decided to pursue a tablet-style information kiosk to be installed in downtown Newnan. • Discussed the viability of developing a City of Newnan mobile app.

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