Vandalia has implemented the ‘There’s Opportunity Here’ marketing campaign to help build interest and lease vacant buildings throughout downtown.
Vandalia, Illinois is a rural, tight-knit community advantageously positioned on positioned on Interstate 70, which is seventy miles northeast of St. Louis, Missouri. The city is a supportive community with many small businesses. When it came to understanding retail recruitment and expansion, Amber Daulbaugh, Director of Economic Development, was faced with a lack of experience and resources. The city had raw opportunity and potential in the market, however, it struggled to understand how to plan a downtown.
“When I started back in 2018, I lacked economic development experience and did not know how to focus or plan a downtown. We needed the data and did not have the information readily available about real estate in our area. Downtown Strategies provided this information and validation to what we are trying to accomplish in Downtown Vandalia,” said Daulbaugh.
Vandalia brought on Downtown Strategies in 2019 as a community development partner to aid the city in expanding its downtown area. The team presented a Strategic Plan tailored to Vandalia that gave focused steps to taking action in reviving Downtown Vandalia. Downtown Strategies offered a rural approach that fits within Vandalia’s economic confines.
“Downtown Strategies provided validation and legitimacy to what we were trying to accomplish. The team really helped create focus. I do not know where we would be without the Strategic Plan delivered from Downtown Strategies. Seeing the implementation of the Strategic Plan has helped us to hit goals from our own Comprehensive Plan,” said Daulbaugh.
The Strategic Plan outlined tactics the city could initially start with at no cost including the creation of a Facebook page to promote community activities downtown, holding quarterly meetings with merchants and property owners, and developing a plan to backfill vacancies starting with short-term leasing. The Strategic Plan also includes tactics for years one through three with minimal investment, and years three through five with long-term investment.
Since the beginning of the partnership, Vandalia has implemented many of the suggested steps outlined in the strategic plan. The city now holds quarterly meetings with the Downtown Stakeholders and created six sub-committees devoted to Tourism, Branding, Events, Arts, Website, and Downtown Buildings to implement the Vandalia Strategic Plan. The Downtown Strategies team recommended using the campaign ‘There’s Opportunity Here’ when marketing vacant buildings.
“We hosted our first Downtown Vandalia Partnership Meeting in February of this year. We rolled out the ‘There’s Opportunity Here’ banners and campaign. Once these banners are hung on the building, I promote the opportunity in the vacant space on Facebook with a call to action to entrepreneurs and investors. We have received interest on these posts and property owners are recognizing the support from the city. People are getting excited and engaged by seeing this strategy in action,” said Daulbaugh.
Vandalia also offers Special Events including the reintroduction of a monthly Farmer’s Market, the first one started May 8, 2021 and the city uses their Facebook page to help promote these events. In terms of business recruitment, Atlas 46 announced its new Manufacturing Facility in Downtown Vandalia opening in the spring and is expected to bring 75 jobs to the community. To complement the historic presence of the Vandalia State House, the addition of businesses and attractions including Witness Distillery, Charters Patio, Allie Mae’s Sweetery alongside the well-established businesses on Gallatin Street, there is excitement being realized Downtown.
Beyond Retail Recruitment
“We have worked for years to maintain our downtown business efforts, while also staying true to our history and Retail Strategies is an additional tool to have in our arsenal,” said Mayor Ricky J. Gottman. “Our downtown property and business owners are excited and have developed some great ideas of what they would like to see downtown become. I look forward to the progress with their committees and the in-person interaction that will become of these committees and the staff of the city.”
“Not many people outside of our area realize that Vandalia is the former State Capital of Illinois and the building still stands where Lincoln began his political and law career. This is located in our downtown and to build on that history will be of great benefit to implementing this Retail Strategies plan, in addition to our Comprehensive Plan,” finished Mayor Gottman.