Pontiac, MI - Two of Main Street Oakland County’s outstanding downtown management organizations, Downtown Rochester and the Royal Oak Downtown Development Authority (DDA), have been nationally recognized for their innovative approaches to helping their small businesses endure the COVID-19 pandemic.
Downtown Rochester is the first-place winner, receiving $5,000, in the American Express Shop Small “Order In, Help Out” Innovation Challenge. Rochester’s “February Foodie” campaign competed with more than 30 communities throughout the U.S.
“Oakland County’s small businesses stepped up throughout the pandemic, with the assistance of our downtown organizations, finding new ways to serve their customers and keep essential goods and services flowing,” Oakland County Executive Dave Coulter said. “The national awards are a welcome recognition of how we came together as a community to make sure our businesses successfully emerged from this pandemic”.
This award recognizes innovative marketing campaigns that encourage support of local restaurants. Applicants had to design and run a campaign that brings the “Order In, Help Out” message to their community. Entries were judged on strategy; innovation and engagement; feasibility; response to the COVID-19 pandemic; and results and impact.
“We appreciate American Express’s commitment to supporting small businesses and are honored by this recognition,” said Kristi Trevarrow, executive director, Downtown Rochester.
The Royal Oak DDA won the Main Street America “Main Street Forward” award and received $1,000 for their “Rebound Royal Oak” Small Business Assistance Program. The two-part program helped both sellers and buyers.
The small business assistance grants ranged from $4,000 to $32,000. Award amounts were based on square footage, rent, average monthly payroll hours and a “longevity” bonus for how many years the business was in the Downtown Development District. Every business that applied received a grant—totaling 92 small businesses that received $1.1 million.
The “Downtown Dollars” campaign stimulated demand by providing incentives for consumer spending. To kick off the program, the Royal Oak DDA gave away $400,000 in Downtown Dollars to the first 20,000 Royal Oak residents and visitors who signed up for its e-newsletter.
Downtown Dollars were distributed in the form of a digital gift card, emailed to recipients to use at more than 70 participating businesses, including restaurants, retail stores, coffee shops, salons, and entertainment venues. As businesses started reopening, the DDA used Downtown Dollars to welcome people back to Royal Oak.
The program continued into the holiday season, offering a 50% match to anyone who purchased cards. To date, more than $1 million has been distributed to consumers in Downtown Dollars.
“The business recovery program, established by the Downtown Development Authority, is the most impactful project we have ever implemented, and we are honored to be recognized by Main Street America,” said Sean Kammer, downtown manager for Royal Oak. “The grants and the Downtown Dollars program are helping to make sure all businesses are successful, and that downtown Royal Oak continues to evolve into the future. We have heard from so many that these programs saved their business—and it’s amazing to see what can be accomplished when a community comes together.”
“A special thanks to Main Street Oakland County, who had our back during the difficult moments of designing the programs and providing technical assistance dollars to help us increase our capacity to administer and implement such a complex program in such a short time,” continued Kammer. “It was an honor to be one of six communities nationwide to be recognized by Main Street America.”
“Our Main Street organizations have been rallying their communities to support local small businesses since the beginning of the pandemic, said John Bry, supervisor, Planning & Local Business Development at Oakland County. “We were so proud to see Downtown Rochester and the Royal Oak DDA recognized during the recent Main Street America national convention.”
In 2020, public and private investment in Main Street Oakland County totaled almost $36 million and resulted in 24 net new jobs; 36 net new businesses; and contributions of more than 16,308 volunteer hours.
To date, more than $962 million in public and private investments have been made to Main Street Oakland County downtowns, establishing 1,254 net new businesses, and generating more than 8,000 jobs. Oakland County is the first and only county in the U.S. to operate a full-service, county-wide Main Street program.
For more information, visit MainStreetOaklandCounty.com.