Just like Soul-y Austin, there are programs around the United States that focus on assisting business districts with the development of a sustainable business community that is anchored by a merchants association. Leading these efforts in Portland, Oregon, Venture Portland has been supporting the smart, strategic growth of Portland’s unique business districts since 1986. Venture Portland is a key partner in the City of Portland’s economic development efforts to create new jobs and stimulate neighborhood business vitality.
Through grants, training and technical assistance Venture Portland builds the capacity of and connections between Portland’s business districts. With over 30 members, Venture Portland has been able to develop a program that understands the challenges and opportunities that each individual business district experiences. From marketing and promotions to business district economic development grants, Venture Portland aims to help business districts strengthen their economic competitiveness while at the same time developing a district identity that sets it aside from all other communities and neighborhood business districts.
The trainings offered by Venture Portland includes marketing a business district, increasing merchants association membership, hosting a street fair, and the role of each association leadership position, among others. The grants provided by Venture Portland have assisted business districts improve their website and host events. Since 1995, $1.1 million has funded over 400 projects, leveraging more than $3.75 million in private investment.
Year round, Venture Portland District engage in a number of placemaking projects that leverage the unique strengths of the districts to drive traffic, better serve residents and customers, increase safety, walkability and livability. With support from Venture Portland’s District Identity/Placemaking Benchmark grant, the Historic Mississippi Avenue Business Association built a district wayfinding kiosk that utilizes their district map. The district, which is known for its rich cultural heritage, offers everything from quirky cocktails to living art and locally designed children’s toys. The wayfinding project aimed to improve the pedestrian experience along the district, strengthening the sense of identity and providing visitors with a pleasant, safe, and entertaining experience in one of Portland’s historic districts.
In addition to placemaking projects, Venture Portland supports projects that encourage districts to highlight their unique brand and competitive edge through the development of their web/social media presence. Venture Portland’s Web/Social Media Presence Benchmark grant has supported diverse projects among their districts including website development, blogs, mobile apps, website translation services, and social media strategies, among others. After receiving one of VP’s benchmark grants, the Montavilla/East Tabor Business Association was able to create a new district website that features photos of local business owners, a district map, a district events calendar, a complete list of association members, as well as information on how to join the association. Through these initiatives, Venture Portland seeks to better position its districts to increase and diversity their customer base to attract residents and visitors year round.
To learn more about Venture Portland, its initiatives, and its business districts visit: http://ventureportland.org/