Mainstreet reviews priorities for event sponsorship

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— Mainstreet Steamboat Springs is sharpening its focus and making sure it keeps member businesses' priorities in mind during the tough economic climate.

Mainstreet Manager Tracy Barnett sent an e-mail to members in late May, asking whether they wanted to continue supporting the Steamboat Wine Festival. The agency will contribute to the wine stroll but has looked twice at other events. For example, Mainstreet's board decided not to donate dollars to the Free Summer Concert Series.

"At a recent board meeting, we discussed the funding for several of the events we have helped to fund in the past and felt that we needed to concentrate what funding we have on creating new events and supporting more of the events Mainstreet is already committed to," Barnett wrote in the e-mail.

Those include the planned Sisters in Steamboat event, a women-focused social weekend in October.

They also include the Restaurant Week held last month, another of which is planned for fall, Barnett said in an interview.

Mainstreet members opted to donate $1,750 to the wine stroll, instead of the $2,000 the group contributed last year.

Barnett is working within a budget of nearly $142,000. Of that, $37,000 goes toward advertising, and $15,000 goes toward promotions. Money for the summer concert series isn't included as a line item in the Mainstreet budget, according to draft minutes from the May 5 board meeting.

Part of the concern, Barnett said, is that the agency doesn't have extra dough for new events.

"We just don't have a whole lot of money in the budget for any of this," she said. "If I have events that I can ask downtown businesses to participate in and they give me some cash, we can do a lot more. As far as the budget we already have, we don't have a ton to go with."

Mainstreet must focus on its core principles during the recession, Board President Towny Anderson said. That means the agency should act based on what members want and need - hence the Wine Festival e-mail.

"We want to make sure we're doing what's important to a consensus of our membership, and that's No. 1 - that's most important," Anderson said. "At all times, we're trying to create as attractive an environment, create an environment as conducive to investment in the downtown and visitation to the downtown as we can."

Mainstreet also is focusing on arts and entertainment rather than services, Anderson said. Those are the features that draw people and businesses downtown, he said.

"We're also in it for the long haul, and this is a setback for everybody, but we have to stay focused and recognize - there is no silver bullet," Anderson said. "We need to keep doing what we're doing and do it well, and at the same time recognize that we have to be adaptable to the economic circumstances."

Anderson also reminded Mainstreet members that they're welcome to speak up with suggestions about how to push through the downturn.

"We really do put a premium on grass-roots brainstorming ideas and turning those into action," he said. "The ideas come from the membership, they come from the committees, and our job is to turn them into action."

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