DDA valuable tool for downtown development

CALUMET — The main function of a Downtown Development Authority (DDA) is to invest money and management expertise into downtown districts.

Executive Director of the village’s DDA, Leah Polzien said that she feels too few people understand the purpose and function of a DDA.

“In Calumet,” she said, “the DDA has begun to focus on marketing the community by having a website built for the village, getting a marketing grant from the Western Upper Peninsula Planning and Development Region (WUPPDR), and having community brochures printed.”

Utilizing DDA resources, planners and downtown managers rebuild public spaces, invest in business and public works projects, and help with advertising and marketing, Polzien explained.

“All of this is designed to encourage people, both local and visiting, to participate in a downtown district because of the downtown’s uniqueness and specialized businesses,” she said.

In the case of Calumet, she said, the DDA’s projected budget for 2019 is $54,000.

“Of that total budget, $31,200 is used to fund downtown snow removal, street sweeping, and to support our Historic District Commission,” said Polzien.

In response to public comments and suggestions that the village DDA be dissolved and its money returned to the village’s general budget, Polzien said it is not that cut-and-dried. If the DDA were to dissolved, she said, $7,000 would no longer be collected.

“This represents 1.5 mils paid directly by property owners within the DDA district,” she explained, “and an additional $9500 would revert to the county. So why dissolution of the DDA is touted as a way for the village to gain control of a large amount of money that is allegedly being misspent? $16,500 of revenue would be lost outright and of the $38,000 that would remain, $31,200 is already being spent on basic maintenance of the downtown district.”

The Calumet DDA also does things that seem small, but have a large economic impact on the village, such as the organizing of the recent Ladies Night shopping on Nov. 15, which drew to the downtown district an estimated 700-1,000 shoppers, to a village with a population less than 700. Polzien said she estimated the turnout was larger than last year’s event, and she credits the businesses with that.

“I attribute that to all the businesses putting together special in-store events,” she said, “like bringing in pop-up shops, having drawings and great discounts.”

Polzien noted that she thought Ladies Night “is quickly turning into a tradition, it’s so fun to see so many people in Calumet and they all seem to be having a great time.”