Downtown business owner David Schultz has spent years trying to get the Main Street Program up and running in Plant City. In 2016, it appears he’s finally seeing his hopes come to life.
Main Street leaders appointed a full board of directors Tuesday, Jan. 5, and created a plan for action for 2016. Main Street’s primary goal is to revitalize the downtown area, and find ways to draw both new businesses and consumers into the Historic District. The program is under the Florida Division of Historic Resources.
“The template calls for stakeholders to get involved, improving the downtown area,” Schultz says. “It calls for forming partnerships with the organizations that have the most influence and can help the most to achieve the objectives.”
Before Main Street, there was the Downtown Merchants Association, which was a collaboration of business owners working together to attract clients to stores and restaurants through events, sales, marketing and other means. It has now been converted to Main Street and has struck up new partnerships with the City of Plant City, Plant City Greater Chamber of Commerce and the Plant City Economic Development Corp.
The program has also filed for 501(c)(3) nonprofit status, rather than 501(c)(6) status.
“It means we can support a broader base,” Schultz says. “Whereas, with the Downtown Merchants Association, we could only work for its members.”
To allow Main Street to achieve its goal of helping businesses thrive in downtown and to create an inviting, family-friendly atmosphere, it has appointed 15 board members and formed four committees, each pertaining to the Main Street organization’s four-point approach: economic restructuring, promotion, organization and design.
Another new component of the Main Street program is its Tourism Task Force, which looks to be the driving force behind the group’s efforts to draw consumers to Plant City.
The idea for the task force came in late 2015, after approval to start the Main Street Project had been granted, and it had held its official kickoff meeting in mid-December.
Yvonne Fry, head of Fryed Egg Productions and Fresh Picked Talent, among other businesses, is leading the task force. Fry says that it’s possible to market Plant City as an attractive tourist destination beyond the Florida Strawberry Festival. It’s up to the task force to find the best ways to do so.
“There’s already amazing number of tourists who come here,” Fry says. “We want to capitalize on that. We also want to bring out reasons to be a day trip destination or a nighttime getaway.”
City Manager Mike Herr, Plant City EDC member Jake Austin, Recreation and Parks members Jack Holland and Tim Hanlon, Jarrett-Scott Ford owner Jim Scott and Strawberry Festival General Manager Paul Davis are also involved in Main Street discussions, and Patrick Harrison, with Visit Tampa Bay, was also present for the first meeting.
The task force will work hand-in-hand with Main Street, the City of Plant City, the Plant City EDC and the chamber. It also has plans to work with Visit Tampa Bay to gain a presence on social media platforms and to further utilize the #PlantCity hashtag on such mediums.
The group has scoured Plant City to single out what it believes to be the most attractive tourism options and plans to run further with them as 2016 progresses.
“We’re really looking to take introspective look at what’s here and how we can market this city,” Fry says. “We’re going to try to break it down into actual strategy.”
Besides the obvious Florida Strawberry Festival, the task force is planning on using Plant City’s location along the Interstate 4 to its advantage. It’s identified the Hillsborough County Fair and Dinosaur World as key items to promote, as well as unique Plant City businesses such as Keel and Curley Winery, Parkesdale Farm Market, Johnson’s Barbeque, Hole-in-One Donuts and Maryland Fried Chicken. It also plans to promote the city’s abundance of antique stores.
Another big area for the task force is the city’s sports scene. While Plant City has not had any major sporting presence since the Cincinnati Reds left town, the Recreation and Parks Department hosts a number of sporting events that draw thousands of people. Everything from the UYFL tournament to the CollClub Sports spring break baseball and softball tournaments is seen as marketable.
Plant City’s culture will also come into play. The task force considers the people of the community to be a selling point, along with the charm of the area. It is considering promoting chamber events, such as Car Show, Bike Fest and Pig Jam, and plans to use the Robert Willaford Railroad Museum to its advantage.
“There’s a lot going on in Plant City now,” Schultz says.
The group’s next meeting will be held at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 13, at the Plant City Chamber of Commerce, and Fry says that this meeting will turn the wheels of action.
The public Main Street meetings will be held on the third Monday of every month at 5:30 p.m. at the Plant City Photo Archives. The next one will be held Jan. 18.