The Hinesville Downtown Development Authority is looking at ways to attract more shoppers downtown.
Representatives from the Liberty County Chamber of Commerce, Liberty County Development Authority, Heritage Bank and authority staff attended the “partners meeting” April 8.
They heard about opportunities for promotions between downtown businesses and the Hinesville Farmers Market, an update on Bryant Commons and the availability of façade grants to improve commercial buildings, among other things.
Hollie Barnidge, Main Street coordinator and event planner for the HDDA, led the meeting.
She presented an initiative called the “3/50 Shop Local Project.” It refers to customers shop in three local businesses and spend a total of $50. Those customers are eligible to win a prize or discount at local store. As part of the project, independent storefront businesses would be listed for free as participants with the option to pay for special extras. The project comes with a mobile app, options for check-ins, QR codes and promotional products.
“Another thing that could come that’s not ‘3/50 Shop Local Project,’ but is similar, is the idea of having two local businesses partner together,” Barnidge said. “For example, anyone who spends $25 that day at one local business could then take that receipt to another business for a discount.”
The HDDA will start hosting Market Festival Day, a special Farmers Market event that features not only vendors, but will include fun activities and coincide with an event taking place downtown. For example, on April 2 at the market, “We had a bounce house and Easter bunnies. It was also in conjunction with the Hinesville Area Arts Council exhibit (that) evening, and we were encouraging people to go over there,” Barnidge said. “The Farmers Market in itself is a good promotional event.”
Barnidge also made a special request for downtown businesses to stay open until 7 p.m. Thursdays. HDDA Executive Director Michelle Ricketson estimated that 400 people attend the market each week.
“With all the people in downtown until 7 p.m., this is a fantastic opportunity for our local downtown businesses to do extra business if they consider staying open late one day of the week,” Barnidge said. “Several of our downtown businesses will also be eligible to set up a booth and sell their handmade goods or food as well.”
Efforts to improve the physical attractiveness of downtown were discussed at the meeting. The HDDA emphasized its façade matching grant for improvements of commercial buildings.
“It’s a 50/50 match up to $5,000,” Ricketson said. “So we’ll pay up to $2,500 of your project. It’s a great opportunity, and there (are) two grants left in this fiscal cycle. Or if someone doesn’t take the full $2,500 and only needed a $1,000 match for their project, then we could get three grants out of this year’s fiscal cycle.”
Businesses can also participate in the “Brighten Your Business for the Great American Cleanup” this week. It involves collecting any trash outside the business and its parking area, raking leaves and cleaning windows, doors and the general exterior. Keep Liberty Beautiful will supply all the equipment for clean-up, and participating businesses will be recognized at the annual volunteer-appreciation ceremony. Another idea is for businesses to adopt historical marker. The HDDA asked for those who have and will adopt historical markers to clean the dirt and pollen from the marker as part of Historic Preservation Month in May.
The HDDA offered to use some of its billboard space for future collaboration campaigns with downtown businesses. Ricketson said the HDDA initially used the billboards for festival promotions but is open to working with others on theme campaigns, then using the billboard to advertise the campaign.
Other ideas included promoting events with the HDDA’s social-media accounts, having postcards list upcoming events available at businesses, registering to participate in the May 6 Business Expo, building volunteer groups to support downtown and participating in the upcoming Business After Hours gathering at city hall for Georgia Cities Week.
Attendees also heard an update on the recently opened Bryant Commons. Barnidge said the venue is gaining popularity, with many people fishing in the ponds, walking the trails, renting space for events and geocaching.