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Chamber to manage Farmville Downtown Partnership

The Farmville Area Chamber of Commerce and the Farmville Downtown Partnership (FDP) announced Tuesday, Aug. 4, they will be joining forces.

The chamber signed an agreement to manage FDP for the upcoming year beginning Aug. 1, officials stated in a chamber press release. The agreement will effectively ensure the responsibilities of the program manager position within FDP are carried out by the chamber staff. These responsibilities include social media, administrative tasks and grant management.

“The missions of the two organizations are complimentary,” FDP President Jen Cox said in the release. “Having the chamber manage FDP is an opportunity for FDP to continue carrying out the grants and programs that it has become known for and serving the merchants and residents of the downtown area in a fiscally responsible way.”

FDP is currently without a person in the program manager position, a position that will not be needed while under contract with the chamber, the release continued. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the chamber was in search of an executive director, but the organization has halted its search. Anne Tyler Paulek is serving as interim executive director for the organization.

Officials stated in the release the challenges of COVID-19 necessitated the need for the boards of both organizations to think differently about their roles as nonprofits and how to better align resources now and in the future. Both organizations agreed it would be mutually beneficial to enter into a partnership. 

“We are excited to begin this new collaboration with FDP, and we look forward to beginning to work on their upcoming projects,” Paulek said in the release.

A Tuesday, Aug. 4, emailed letter from Cox, written on behalf of the FDP Board of Directors, asked what this new agreement means for downtown businesses and then provided an answer.

“You will see new (but familiar) names managing the email account, keeping up with grant reporting requirements, scheduling merchant meetings, etc.,” she wrote. “This also means that FDP can continue to seek out grant opportunities and find other ways to support your business during this difficult time. Finally, all downtown businesses will have the opportunity to join the chamber at a reduced cost for the duration of the partnership. We truly believe this will be a win-win for everyone involved.”

Leaders of various downtown businesses shared their thoughts  Wednesday, Aug. 5 about the new agreement.

Davenport Branch Manager Brad Watson said he thinks the alliance is a smart plan.

“The chamber is financially sound and has strong membership numbers,” he said. “Most of the downtown partnership member businesses are also members of the Chamber of Commerce, so there is a good deal of overlap in coverage and services provided. Whenever our local organizations pool their resources to achieve goals, our community benefits greatly.”

Red Door 104 Founder Audrey Sullivan said she thinks the alliance is an interesting solution to a difficult problem.

“I understood it,” she said. “I’ve been really concerned about the chamber and the FDP as far as their income stream and whether businesses like mine are able to pay their dues and keep their coffers filled, so I don’t doubt that that’s an issue. The economics of it is, I’m sure, an issue.”

She said the new agreement seems like a logical idea.

“I didn’t know it was something that they were allowed to do through the FDP, but I guess it is,” she said.

She later highlighted the broad trend of all businesses and organizations.

“Everybody’s trying to come up with solutions to problems we never expected to face,” she said.

She later took inventory of the positives that will go into the collaboration between the chamber and FDP.

“They’re both good organizations with good people that really do have the best interest of the community at heart, so that being said, how could it be a bad thing?” she said. “It was interesting, but I think it was probably smart.”

W.A. Watson & Sons Owner and President William “Gene” Watson said the new agreement makes sense to him.

“I don’t have any concern about it,” he said.

He affirmed his business will be well-served by the move.

Terri Atkins Wilson, of The Law Offices of Terri Atkins Wilson, P.C., said she thinks the new arrangement is a good thing and that it will probably unify a greater group of people.

“I believe it’s a great move for both organizations,” she said. “I think it gives the downtown just as much protection, just as much involvement, just as much exposure and kind of goes hand in hand with what the Farmville Area Chamber does. And I think it was led by the fact that you’ve got some capable hands running the Chamber of Commerce, and they were fully capable of doing the Farmville Downtown Partnership as well.

“So I think it’s a positive thing, and I truly believe it’s related to the pandemic,” she added. “I think otherwise, both organizations would have been pressing forward to get somebody to run each organization. But it just makes sense to kind of join hands at this time.”

Bill McKay, owner of one19 restaurant, said he thinks his business will be well-served by the FDP moving to the broader chamber organization.

“Common goals between the two (are) helpful as well — promoting, marketing and presenting downtown businesses,” he said.