Andy Jones, Director of Downtown Development,
for the City of Elkhart, Speaks to the Club
Stewart Barb inducted new members, Tina Weldy and Mandy Leazenby.
The Rotary International Convention will be held June 10-14th in Atlanta.
Gail Martin, who joined the club in 1989, continued the “why I became a Rotarian” series. Gail has visited over 90 countries, often times helping distribute polio vaccines. 
Kay Ball was awarded a Paul Harris Fellow and Kurt Janowsky was awarded a Paul Harris Fellow plus Five.
The Paul Harris Fellow recognition acknowledges individuals who contribute, or who have contributions made in their name or the name of family members, of $1,000 to The Rotary Foundation of Rotary International. Plus recognitions indicate the member has donated additional One Thousand Dollar amounts. The recognition was established in 1957 to show appreciation for and encourage substantial contributions to what was then the Foundation’s only program, Rotary Foundation Fellowships for Advanced Study, the precursor to Ambassadorial Scholarships.
Member Paul Warning celebrated his first born child on New Years Day.
Ms. Floor exchange student from the Netherlands, presented her club flag to President Scott Puckett.
The Sergeant at Arms was Scott Franko, who fined himself for spending the holidays in warm weather. The money the Sergeant’s committee raises over the year is pooled into a fund and then disbursed annually to area non-profit organizations.
The Speaker was Andy Jones, Director of Downtown Development for Elkhart.  His remarks are as follows:
The Director of Downtown Development, what a great job especially to me. Like some of you I’m sure, the downtown is some place that has been near and dear to my heart for a long time. Having been an Elkhart guy since 1959 when my family moved to Elkhart from southern Indiana, I’ve actually lived inside the city limits that entire time. I’ve seen firsthand the many changes in our downtown, and in the community. Even though I like to reflect on the good old days like when as a kid I would ride my Schwinn stingray bicycle downtown to Berman’s Sporting Goods to buy a new pair of Chuck Taylor Converse All Star Tennis Shoes. Or watching a Planet of the Apes Trilogy at the Elco Theater. I believe that the future of downtown is bright and will be equally be full of fond memories for generations yet to come.
Thanks to a grant which was made possible by the Elkhart County Convention and Visitors Bureau, The Community Foundation of Elkhart County, and the City of Elkhart Redevelopment Commission, the Greater Elkhart Chamber of Commerce is the home site of the new downtown business development operation. The program is designed to champion the WORK component of the SoMa LIVE, WORK, and PLAY initiative.
SoMa, which stands for Supporting Our Main Assets, was a 60 member group of people that actively contributed to defining the downtown they envisioned for our community which is based on the Hyatt Palma and 400 block studies.
Part of the SoMa implementation plan called for the creation of a downtown business development team. The team I serve on also includes the chamber of commerce front office, SCORE, whom I believe spoke to this group not long ago, the Indiana small business development Council, the Gateway mile loan fund resources, the launch Elkhart business incubator, that Kyle will be talking to you about in detail next week, and the Chamber of Commerce team.
I work full time with existing companies on ways to make their businesses more successful in downtown Elkhart. My responsibilities include supporting the downtown merchant alliance in part by building relationships with the city agencies and government officials. I also work with the SoMa LIVE and PLAY committees. 60% of my time I spend on business retention. I also work to recruit new companies to locate downtown. We have had several new businesses open in the past 6 months. Others have seamlessly changed hand.
Our new business development plan often begins with a visit to SCORE. We believe that the best way to reduce a business’s chances of failing is to help them to manage their expectations up front.  That’s where SCORE comes in. Anyone we work with we highly encourage to draft an up to date business plan.
 One of the tools in our tool box is the Gateway Mile Loan fund. Administered by (DEI) Downtown Elkhart Inc. The Gateway Mile Loan Fund is available to help investors in the downtown to quickly move forward on their ideas. Weather for a restaurant, store front, residential living space, or something else in the downtown, we are ready to listen to your ideas and help you to get the capitol you need to make your dream a reality.
A small business loan or first mortgage we have a group of banks ready to help. If anyone is interested in more information about the Gateway Mile Loan Fund see me after lunch and I’ll put you in touch with Burl Troyer the administrator of the Loan Fund.
Much of my focus for this first six months has been to acquaint myself with the property owners and stakeholders in the downtown. I have been trying to encourage the owners of the vacant space in the Main Street area to invest in making the space more attractive to potential tenants. The process is going slowly but I have made some progress. If all goes as planned the former Casey’s restaurant site will open this summer with a new name as a microbrewery, pub, and restaurant, with a new residential apartment on the second floor. The former Copy Shop Building at the corner of Lexington and Waterfall Drive, across from the Knights of Columbus, will soon be renovated for mixed use of residential on the second and third floors and retail in the surface spaces. 3 vacant stores in the 500 block of Main have been leases in the past few months and 2 more spaces in the same block will be renovated for retail use and ready for occupancy in late spring.
I’ve also been working on developing a partnership with government agencies and other organizations like pillars, Elkhart festivals Inc., and the downtown merchant’s alliance.
Over the course of the first three months on the job I worked with 17 different departments of the city on behalf of various issues that affect the downtown. I really had no idea that my past municipal government experience would come in so handy. I was privileged as part of the previous administration to have played a small roll in drafting portions of the Mayor’s annual state of the city message. This required me to read all of the department head’s annual reports. I gained a unique understanding of the responsibilities of each department. That information came in handy when for example I noticed that the Bucklin parking lot next to 523 Tap & Grill needed some attention. Based on my experience I knew that getting a dead tree removed and the bushes trimming is the responsibility of the Buildings and Grounds department. The overgrown weeds and grass are the responsibility of the Traffic department. The burned-out street light bulbs above the parking lot are the responsibility of the Public Works department. And that the overflowing trashcan needed to be moved 3 feet to one side so that it was clear to Himco that it was their responsibility to empty it not the city.
Now, I don’t want to sound like I’m being critical of the city Buildings and Grounds department because they do an outstanding job. If you read their report and saw all they do with so few people you’d be amazed at how well-organized they really are. They’re just constantly being pulled in different directions and occasionally things slip through the cracks. You might think, Andy it’s just a parking lot big deal, and you may be right. But making a few calls to the right people doesn’t take much time. It is my belief, as it is also that of community development groups across the country, that a city’s central business district is the window into our entire community and should always look its best. Recently I worked with Mayor Neese’s office, City Court Judge Grodnick, and the Center for Community Justice, on a $5,000 city grant for the supervision of community service workers picking up litter in the downtown area as opposed to incarceration. This frees up city crews to do other work.
Downtown events are an important part of our efforts to bring more citizens and visitors to our downtown. Part of my time is spent working with Elkhart Festivals Inc. on new and existing events in the downtown.
I’m constantly looking for ways that the merchants can capitalize on these events in the 8.form of making their cash registers ring. There are a lot of great events in the downtown I can talk about but today I’ll focus on just a couple of new events in the downtown. March 11 & 12th is the first annual Hall of Heroes Elkhart Comic Con at the Lerner Theatre and Crystal Ball Room! Over 40 venders will be selling wares, including authors, publishers, and pop culture collectables for sale. A Stunt show and celebrity appearances including Dean Cain: from TV’s Lois and Clark, The new Adventures of superman, Smallville, and a lot more. So if your light saber just doesn’t have the pizazz it once did or your Klingon speak is getting a little rusty, it may be time to visit Comic Con at the Lerner this March.
If you have been around Elkhart for at least 20 years chances are you’ll remember the Elkhart Grand Prix. It’s hard to forget Go-karts going 80 miles per hour through the streets of downtown Elkhart. August 11, 12, 13, 2017 will be the first annual Elkhart Riverwalk Grand Prix. The United States Auto Club will be sanctioning this race in cooperation with the city of Elkhart. This time the track will consist of NIBCO Parkway to Jackson on to Waterfall Drive turning on to franklin for a second onto Elkhart Avenue and back to NIBCO Parkway.
For sponsor information for either of these events see me after lunch and I’ll put you in touch with the sponsor committee.
If you are interested in starting a business in downtown Elkhart your timing couldn’t be better. Soon, about $130 million dollars could be invested in new development projects with in a 5 minute walk from Main Street. The Natatorium on the former YMCA site. 200 luxury apartments on the former foundry site, A new Martin’s Supermarket and 143 apartment development at Easy Shopping Place South, the Hotel Elkhart renovation project including restaurant, commercial space, 60 hotel rooms, 30 market rate apartments, and meeting space. That’s nearly 400 new families living, working, and playing in our downtown. And if that were not enough our near downtown Historic District is also seeing resurgence in owner occupation. So I’ll say it again, the future of our downtown is bright and I feel privileged to be playing a small part in shaping its future.
Once again thank you for inviting me here today. And I’ll hope to see all of you at the next Artwalk February 8, in downtown Elkhart.