July 17, 2013 - Once again, downtown Oxford has received validation from the outside world for its efforts in terms of economic development.
Last week, Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson announced that Oxford was among 10 downtown communities to receive national accreditation for 2012 from the National Main Street Center in Washington D.C.
"It's nice to finally hear some good news for a change," said Bill Dunn, chairman of the Oxford Downtown Development Authority (DDA). "Being accredited is a great thing and we should be proud of that.
"I hope this kind of recognition will attract some new businesses and visitors to our downtown. I want to see our downtown grow and the merchants turning a profit."
Oxford's been a Main Street community since 2004. This is the fourth time it's achieved national accreditation.
All 10 of this year's accredited downtown communities achieved perfect 10-out-of-10 scores during their annual year-end evaluation by representatives of the Main Street Oakland County (MSOC) program.
MSOC is an economic development program that helps local governments develop their downtowns as vibrant, successful districts that serve as the heart of their communities. There are currently 18 downtown communities with membership in the MSOC program.
Evaluation points are awarded for things such as having broad-based community support; the activity level of DDA board and committee members; having an adequate operating budget; and employing a paid, professional DDA director.
"It's definitely a team effort between the board, the volunteers and the merchants," Dunn said. "There's no one person doing it all. There's a lot of hard work that goes into this thing and I'm glad to see it recognized."
Although he was pleased by the accreditation news, Dunn warned that given the DDA's troubled financial situation, this is no time for the group to rest on its laurels.
Due to a sharp decline in tax revenues, the DDA has zero cash reserves and had to rely on a $15,000 transfer from the village's general fund in order to avoid ending the 2012-13 fiscal year with a deficit. To save money and help rebuild the authority's reserves, the village council recently eliminated the DDA director position, which cost $68,000 annually in wages and benefits.
"Right now, we have no money, no director and no goals for the future," Dunn said. "We need to figure out what we can do, set some short-term goals and when the revenues start coming in, get some things done without ending up in the red again."
"All these awards and pats on the back from the county are nice," he added. "But I guess to me, the DDA's success is measured by how much we can do to help the business and property owners succeed. We can't do that without money or a plan."
Last week, the village council voted 5-0 to direct the DDA to come up with five one-year goals and pick two projects to work on.
Sue Bossardet, who introduced the motion, gave two examples of projects the DDA could tackle.
One is development of the East/Edison Alley that runs along the east side of M-24 between Ensley St. and the parking lot behind Holy Cross Lutheran Church. The other is the Michigan Department of Transportation's plans to install a left-turn lane from Minnetonka to Burdick St. in 2016.
Her motion also called for a joint meeting between council, DDA and village planning commission. The purpose is to "dust off" and discuss the downtown's existing vision and marketing plans, and refine the streetscape project's scope and funding.
"Everybody knows that we can't do a $4.5 million (streetscape project), but we might be able to do a $1 million one," Bossardet said. "That project needs to be scaled down."
CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.