BELFAST, Maine — Belfast’s Downtown Business Group took the next step up the ladder of downtown economic development and became Our Town Belfast on June 9. With that came four committees of different specifications, eligibility for grants and one full-time executive director position filled by Dorothy Havey.
The No. 1 goal of Our Town is to maintain and support economic development through the preservation of Main Street, said Havey.
“This is achieved in a number of different ways. One way is that we try to keep and promote businesses in the downtown area that are more than just tourist stops. We have a thriving hardware store, many restaurants, the co-op, clothing boutiques, as well as apartments above all these places, which promote a downtown community of people who can get everything they need in walking distance — as well as fun, artful promotions like ‘The Please Be Seated’ chairs seen up and down Main Street,” she said.
In the last year, 28 new businesses have come to Belfast. One major part of what Our Town does is to try to foster a smooth transition for new businesses.
“When a new business comes to town we offer them information and introductions to try and help them out as much as possible,” said Havey.
That information may be how another business like it has done in the past, or how much foot traffic a particular location gets, as well as introducing the new business to the community and the other downtown merchants. Belfast has some of the best business owners who are all in contact with each other trying to make all the downtown businesses successful, Havey said.
“Businesses cooperate so well together, even to the point that they will email each other when they run out of supplies and borrow something until their order comes in,” she said.
Gary Guida and Kim Cashman, owners of Bella Books, one of Belfast’s 28 new businesses, said that in Bedford, Va., where they are from, there was an issue of combativeness. Here, there is a real sense of a helping business community.
“It’s nice to be in a boat where everyone is rowing in the same direction,” said Guida. Both Guida and Cashman were impressed with the help the Belfast Chamber of Commerce, other business owners and Our Town gave to them in what is coming up on their 50th day in Belfast.
If one business can be a success then the whole downtown community can be a success, Havey said with pride. “Our Town is really best described as organized. We offer help, in any form we can, bringing events to the downtown and a sense of a safety line where people and businesses who have an idea can come and find out what logistics need to be achieved to get there,” she said.
Some events and promotions Our Town is particularly proud of being involved in this year include the Celtic Festival, Belfast Bound Book Festival, Please Be Seated Artful Chairs and the third annual Street Party set for Thursday, Aug. 8.
Our Town is in the process of working with Jack Deupree, a local band member of the Oxford Horse Thieves, to organize The Last Chance music festival at the boathouse for this fall. Our Town is offering help with getting permits, a place for the planners to meet, as well as communicating with the Maskers Theater to arrange the loan of a stage for the festival.
Havey said she and Our Town are thrilled to be working in a community where people are so excited, creative and innovative in making downtown Belfast a fun and successful place.
For more information about Our Town visit http://www.ourtownbelfast.org or stop by its office at 171 High St., No. 6.