|DTCP director is up and running|
|Written by Editor|
|Thursday, 12 April 2012 18:21|
Photo by Joyell Nevins
By JOYELL NEVINS
PEP is the new slogan to explain DTCP’s mission to “preserve, energize and promote” the downtown area. It was coined by new Executive Director Tara Dixon Engel and DTCP President Jim Valekis.
“We wanted to come up with something that defines our mission but we can easily remember,” Engel said, “PEP (preserve, energize and promote) says it all. It’s an exciting word.”
Engel is the founder of Integrity Marketing & Communications; co-founder of The American Veterans Institute (which is currently working with the reconstituted Tipp Veterans Memorial Committee); national co-chairman of Operation Welcome Home and most recently an NRA certified firearms instructor and range officer.
Her career path includes newspapers, international advertising and colleges, and has brought her awards for graphic design, artwork and video script-writing (two of the videos received national exposure).
Engel was brought on board to DTCP through Integrity Marketing to create a strategic plan for the group, working with the organizational committee and pulling from notes of previous strategic planning sessions. During a meeting with Valekis, he informed her of the open director position and suggested she apply.
“I recognized almost immediately after some of our initial discussion that Tara had a passion for the Tipp community, and the ability to both assess and share a vision for its future,” Valekis said, “She struck me as someone who was honestly looking for the good and growth not just of the part she’d be working for, but for the community as a whole.”
With the urging of Valekis, Engel’s fiancé John Falldorf, and business partner Mike Jackson, Engel applied and was accepted for the position. She officially started March 12 and has already helped DTCP get its own office and present a strategic plan to the public.
“I see so much potential for the organization and the downtown,” Engel said.
Although Engel has only officially been a Tipp resident for two months, she has worked and been a part of the town for seven years.
“I love Tipp City and I love being downtown,” she gushed, “Tipp is an amazing community with very diverse people and experiences that somehow manage to all work together. Tipp City should pat itself on the back.”
The strategic plan lays out several measurable goals and projects, including a separate office from the Tipp City Chamber of Commerce (which is already completed).
Other goals are a long-term fundraising plan, two or more outside grants in 2012 and four or more educational programs for the downtown business community.
“We want to establish measurable goals,” Engel said, “We want to be able to sit down with the residents and the community and say, ‘here’s what we’ve done.’”
Engel likened vague objectives to ‘taxation without representation’ – she and DTCP want to show their donors and sponsors exactly what they’re paying for.
The plan also includes a description of DTCP’s history, mission, needs assessment and information about Tipp itself.
“It’s a road map to be used by current and future partnership members,” Engel said, “The plan expresses the (DTCP) vision, and expresses goals and strategies for achieving those visions. It pulls old ideas, incorporates new ideas, and leaves things open for more new ideas.”
The plan will also be helpful in applying for grants. Engel noted that most grants ask a series of general questions that are “pretty consistent.” She referred to the different parts of the strategic plan as a “series of buckets.” All she has to do is pull from the correct bucket for each application question.
One of those buckets is indepth descriptions of active and proposed projects. Active projects of DTCP include the Façade Improvement Program, Antiques & Artisan Show, HarvestFest, Canal Jumpers Base Ball Club, Midnight Madness, Winter’s Yuletide Gathering and Christmas in the Village.
One of the proposed projects DTCP wants to implement right away is Tippecanoe Incubator Partnership Project (TIPP). TIPP’s start is also listed as one of DTCP’s measurable goals.
The goal of TIPP is to nurture small local businesses. There are many business owners that are experts at what they do – such as antiques or art – but are less experienced in the business or customer service side.
Phase 1 will include education through workshops, seminars and hands-on support. Phase 2 will set up mentoring programs “wherein established long-time local business owners/entrepreneurs will meet with and offer guidance to new and/or younger business owners with the support of DTCP/TIPP leaders,” according to the strategic plan.
Although DTCP will be working with the Chamber, Engel emphasizes that they are two separate organizations. Since the DTCP has 501(c)3 status, they cannot help merchants directly bring in money. Also, where the Chamber is focused solely on helping businesses, DTCP looks at the downtown as a whole.
“Our purpose is much broader,” Engel said, “We exist to preserve and promote the Tipp City downtown and by extension, the entire community, and to educate merchants, organizations and residents how to become more effective in their specific roles.”
Other proposed and in-the-works projects include Key into Tipp (historical and informational signs on downtown buildings); youth/senior cooperative projects; Ask an Expert program; downtown toilet facilities and Creating Connections (communication with the downtown via newsletters and a community calendar). DTCP hopes to not only implement many of these projects in Tipp’s downtown, but encourage other communities to put them into practice, too.
“The measure of a good project is can other towns take it and implement it as well,” Engel said, “Grant providers want something that can be replicated.”
This week, Engel plans to get copies of the strategic plan into every downtown business owner, give them a couple weeks to look at it and come back to her with feedback. DTCP wants its plan to be a downtown community collaboration. The only criteria is criticism must be constructive.
“If you don’t have a solution, don’t come to me with the problem,” Engel said.