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Main Street Waynesboro director sets sights on drawing in businesses

July 21, 2008|By JENNIFER FITCH

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - Bruce Dreisbach glanced out his Center Square office window during a late-morning interview last week and spotted what has recently become his Holy Grail - a young couple wearing overstuffed backpacks and walking with hiking sticks.

A marketing study recently told Dreisbach and others associated with Main Street Waynesboro Inc. that they should be recruiting businesses that cater to the "young and restless" crowd of single people 25 and older. The study also suggested that Waynesboro is in a position to draw on 407,000 households of hiking enthusiasts who live in the Washington, D.C., metro area.

"The goals are two-fold: One is to increase the mix and variety of businesses on Main Street. The second is to increase foot traffic on Main Street," Dreisbach said.

To do that, the nonprofit downtown revitalization organization has narrowed its focus and gotten away from courting people who are looking to open their first businesses. It doesn't actively recruit business chains, either.

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Instead, Dreisbach, manager of Main Street Waynesboro Inc., maintains a list of 77 established businesses in the region. He would like some of those businesses to move to or open another location in Waynesboro.

Grants

Main Street Waynesboro has $150,000 of grant money up for grabs from an original allotment of $500,000 courtesy of state Sen. Terry Punt, R-Franklin/Adams/York. Dreisbach prefers to seek out restaurants for the grants which are designated for rent rebate and equipment purchases. He said two ethnic sit-down restaurants are on their way to Main Street.

"The goal is to recruit businesses even when the grant funding has dried up," Dreisbach said.

On Wednesday, Dreisbach met with an Emmitsburg, Md., businessman and took him on a community tour. Dreisbach introduced the man to several business owners, including Barry and Candace Sonne, who opened Castle Fabrics and Home Decor in 2006, when they moved from Virginia.

"A lot of the business recruitment strategy focuses on how can we get people who have high-quality product or business lines, particularly to the South, to come to Waynesboro," Dreisbach explained.

Dreisbach, who has been on the job for two months, said his recruitment tools are the town's quality of life and the relatively inexpensive monthly rent for storefronts. He's also using the marketing study as a basis for promotion of outdoor recreation and historic tourism.

"We're actually in a major tourism corridor between Franklin and Adams counties, and Washington and Frederick counties," Dreisbach said. "We want to build on that."

Parents

In addition to the "young and restless" group, Dreisbach also has parents of young children in the front of his mind. He believes those families have discretionary spending and the children can be taught to shop locally, establishing a future client base.

He worries that area residents get set in their habits and don't necessarily notice new products or services in town. As such, Main Street Waynesboro Inc. is developing methods of cross promotion. For example, if a woman went to her insurance agent for a meeting, she might be handed a "today only" coupon for a discounted meal at a nearby restaurant.

The Main Street Waynesboro Inc. manager also has taken a preliminary look at "reshuffling the deck" when it comes to businesses with storefronts. Some of those businesses, Dreisbach said, generate little foot traffic due to the nature of their offerings and would be well suited to the upper floors of downtown buildings.

Dreisbach argued that the problems with the economy could actually help Waynesboro. He said that people want to be in a town where they ride a bicycle or walk to work, then shop and eat in that community, too. They don't want to sit in traffic on Interstate 270 headed to Washington, D.C., every day, he said.

Yet, Dreisbach wouldn't complain if large amounts of traffic were headed this way instead.

"Our goal is to build a destination," he said.

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