During a virtual meeting Tuesday evening, the City of Eureka previewed its draft economic development plan and disscussed plans to take over operations from two local nonprofits: Eureka Main Street, a business advocacy group, and the Eureka Visitor Center, currently being operated by Humboldt Made.
The plan has been a topic of discussion for some time, and after receiving approval from the Eureka City Council last week, Eureka Main Street and the visitor center will be consolidated into the City’s economic development department. The City will take over operations on July 1.
[CLARIFICATION: Charlotte McDonald, the longtime executive director of Eureka Main Street, told the Outpost that after her upcoming retirement, the organization will operate without an executive director, and current Assistant Director Amanda Kruschke will become an employee of the City of Eureka. The organization will continue to have a board of directors that will serve in an advisory role for the Eureka City Council and will oversee the Eureka Business Improvement’s funds.]
During Tuesday’s meeting, Bill Prescott, chair of Eureka’s Economic Development Commission, asked about the City’s long-term plan for taking over these agencies and questioned whether city staff has the experience necessary to run them efficiently. [Disclosure: Prescott is general manager of Lost Coast Communications, the Outpost’s parent company.]
“It just seems like that would be something better left in the nonprofit or private sector,” Prescott said during the meeting. “I’m just curious what the plan is to bring all that stuff into the City, which we know is already strapped for resources.”
City Manager Miles Slattery said that many city employees do have the necessary experience. Humboldt Made will continue to partner with the City, he added, though current visitor center staff will be made city employees. Slattery added that, for the time being, the City plans to keep operations of the center as they are, though it may explore ways to improve or streamline operations in the future.
Slattery argued that taking over operations of Eureka Main Street should simplify operations since a large part of what the agency does is serve as “the middle man” between business owners and the City of Eureka.
Donna Wright, president of the Eureka Chamber of Commerce, said she’d been hearing concerns from many local business owners who feel they were left out of the loop about the transition. Slattery said the city has tried to maintain full transparency about taking over EMS but did not feel fully comfortable reaching out to all the businesses while the City was not yet in charge of the agency.
Now that the transition is happening, the City will reach out to each business individually, Slattery said. Following the meeting, the City sent out a press release officially announcing the partnership. You can read the release in full at the bottom of this article.
The main purpose of Tuesday’s meeting was to give folks a chance to learn about, ask questions about and provide input on Eureka’s draft economic development strategic plan. Eureka Economic Development Manager Swan Asbury began by stating the plan’s overarching goal, which is to “improve the quality of life for Eureka’s residents, businesses, employees and visitors through positive actions to attract, retain and expand businesses within the city.”
The plan is divided into four subgoals: to maintain and create high-quality jobs, build Eureka’s community assets, create a diverse and resilient economy and strengthen the city’s revenue base. Asbury outlined 32 strategies the City plans to implement to reach these goals, including such efforts as digitizing business license applications, creating a website to welcome businesses and connect them with necessary resources, focusing on beautification, modernizing coastal zoning and promoting the area as a cruise ship destination.
Some meeting attendees voiced concerns about the scope of the City’s plan, suggesting that Eureka lacks the resources to carry it out. “There’s a lot of things on this list,” Scott Pesch, member of the Economic Development Commission, said. “My concern is we don’t have enough people power to push them through.”
Pesch also said that he would like to see the City prioritize the website for businesses looking to open in the area, something Prescott also felt should be a top priority.
Larry Oetker, executive director of the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District, said he would like to see the plan focus more on specific areas of town and would like to see the City prioritize a “blue economy,” preparing the waterfront to “welcome modern industries.”
Eureka City Councilmember Natalie Arroyo said that the City does need to decide which strategies it is going to prioritize and encouraged members of the public to reach out with their input. “This is an awesome plan and I want to know where we’re going to prioritize so we don’t spread ourselves too thin,” Arroyo said.
You can view the City of Eureka’s full Economic Development Plan Update here and email comments to firstname.lastname@example.org by July 10. After public input is taken into consideration, the plan will go before the Economic Development Commission on July 21 and will come before the Eureka City Council for final adoption on Aug. 3. You can view a full video of Tuesday’s meeting here.
More from the City of Eureka:
Last evening, on Tuesday, June 22 at 5:00 p.m., the City of Eureka hosted a virtual meeting to share a draft economic development strategic plan update, answer questions, and seek public input. A recording of the meeting is now available on the City website, along with the draft document. All citizens and community stakeholders are encouraged to provide feedback via email through July 10th.
Alongside these planning efforts, the City of Eureka is also working to reconfigure two meaningful local partnerships. To ensure streamlined deployment of all business support services under the updated Economic Development Strategic Plan, partnerships with Eureka Main Street and Humboldt Made are being reconfigured to better support evolving citizen and organizational needs.
Pending the upcoming retirement of Charlotte McDonald, a long-standing community leader who has led Eureka Main Street (EMS) for 25 years, the City of Eureka’s Office of Economic Development will soon partner with the Eureka Main Street Board to take over the day-to-day administration and programming operations of Eureka Main Street.
Eureka Main Street has been serving the community since 1983, when the Eureka Business Improvement District was first formally recognized, and it has been officially operating under the name Eureka Main Street since 1992. The organization’s mission and focus will both stay fully intact. City of Eureka staff will now work closely with the existing Eureka Main Street Board of Directors to identify, support, and respond to the unique needs of the businesses in this specially designated geography. This change is taking effect July 1, 2021, and corresponds with the start of the next government fiscal year.
“It has been an honor to serve as Executive Director of Eureka Main Street for so many memorable years,” Charlotte McDonald said. “While I am excited to enter this next life phase, I am also deeply pleased that our Main Street businesses will be in such good hands moving forward. Our dedicated board and our City’s talented and passionate economic development staff all share a commitment to serving the important needs of this special business district. I look forward to both watching and participating in their continued efforts moving forward. I consider myself very lucky to be a part of this very special community and, while I will be retiring, I won’t be going anywhere. Eureka is home.”
Additionally, on July 1, 2021, the City of Eureka Office of Economic Development will also begin to directly manage the operations of the Eureka Visitor Center inside the Clarke Historical Museum. Humboldt Made, the organization that currently operates the Eureka Visitor Center, will continue to partner with the City to support economic development but will shift their focus and lend their talents to several new initiatives that better align with their organizational goals and future direction.
As the first in a series of planned new projects, Humboldt Made will receive city funding to provide a week-long intensive marketing and distribution workshop for City of Eureka-based artisans, makers, and business owners next spring.
“I’m looking forward to these planned adjustments to our partnership,” Alanna Powell, Executive Director of Humboldt Made, said. “Like many organizations, we’ve used the last 18 months to restructure, focus, and assemble an impressive team of local creatives, strategists, and marketers to serve not only our membership but also the greater community. It’s been a challenging year for everyone. We’re thankful that the City has been open to helping us position to better provide much-needed support for our artists, businesses, and community during this critically important time. We are proud of the services we provided to those traveling to our area in the last three years and look forward to passing the torch into the capable hands of City staff. Eureka is experiencing a revival. We look forward to continuing to support and play a role in that progress in ways that are more in line with our organization’s core mission.”
“Our economic development team has been working hard and is bringing clear focus on meeting the goals of our citizens,” City Manager Miles Slattery said. “I want to encourage everyone to provide feedback. There is a lot of important momentum building regarding Economic Development in Eureka.”