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Businesses fund events downtown

Businesses in downtown DeKalb have something new to celebrate.

The concept of renewal, initiated by city plans to renovate streets and building facades, has trickled down to the people who make a living in that area.

Local merchants have kicked it up a notch by forming a special events and marketing committee to attract more people downtown. About 41 businesses, contributing either $250 or $500 per year in membership fees to Re:New DeKalb, recently named themselves “Celebrate Downtown.”

The concept began about a year ago, said Re:New DeKalb Executive Director Jennifer Groce.

Re:New DeKalb, whose goal is to bring economic development opportunities to the downtown area, conducted a survey in which businesses “overwhelmingly” responded that they valued current special events, identified a need for more events and said they were willing to fund special events, Groce said.

From there, a focus group made up of Re:New board members and business representatives identified goals, one of which was bringing on a new full-time staff person for marketing downtown events.

Before, Re:New organized and paid for all events. Businesses are now having to “pay to play,” Groce said.

Lindsey Engelsman, the organization’s marketing and special events coordinator, was hired in mid-July to work directly with business owners to plan and operate events.

“What’s great is it’s come full circle,” Groce said.

About $12,250 in membership fees has been collected so far, a Re:New DeKalb document indicated.

Because businesses are financially involved, they’ve taken off with new ideas, Engelsman said.

The Cornstruction Sidewalk Sale, held during Corn Fest weekend, was the first new event. A Ladies Shopping Night is scheduled for early this month, and a Guys Shopping Night and a Wedding Walk are both slated for early next year.

Engelsman said she’s meeting with businesses to tell them about Celebrate and to bring new members on board.

“The sidewalk sales were a great example of that, how the downtown came together to create something great to bring people downtown,” she said.

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