News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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February 3, 2014

Group expands outreach to revive downtown

Social media, coordinated events, new spaces

TERRE HAUTE — Expanding its presence on social media and on the Internet are ways Downtown Terre Haute Inc. hopes to establish itself as a marketing arm for downtown businesses and events.

The next step is growing, which is why it’s hosting a membership drive on Feb. 12, from 5 to 6:30 p.m., at the Indiana Theatre Event Center, 683 Ohio St.

“Every year the ultimate goal is to increase membership and the awareness of downtown Terre Haute, which you do through the members you have,” said Tim Fears, who is 2014 president of DTH’s board of directors.

Fears said social media, Facebook and Twitter, as well  as a reworked  website, choosedowntown.com, can expand the presence and influence of the organization. In addition, the group is “working to offer packages with some of the business partners and actually be a marketing arm for local, downtown retailers,” Fears said.

DTH, with about 180 members, already hosts two major downtown events: a block party in August and the Heritage Awards in April. The latter recognizes efforts of community leaders and businesses.

“There is a lot of momentum, we just have to keep it moving,” Fears said.

The organization also has a newsletter that promotes activities and events. In January, DTH named Shelley Klingerman as its executive director.

Klingerman served as marketing manager at Sony DADC from 1993 to 2011. She is a 1992 graduate of Indiana State University with a degree in marketing and earned a master’s degree in business administration in 1997 from Indiana Wesleyan.

She also teaches yoga in a studio next to the offices of Downtown Terre Haute Inc., a space she has used for her yoga business since 2006. She also owned Coco, a boutique in the building, for seven years before selling the business in August.

Klingerman said her role as executive director “pulls together my marketing background. And having been a business owner, I have walked in the shoes of some of these business owners and know what some of the challenges are … so, I want DTH to become a resource and to think of us as an extension of their marketing arm,” she said.

“I am really invested in downtown, personally,” she added. “I think we have a lot to be proud of.”

Klingerman said DTH is working to compile an inventory of available space for future downtown businesses. While DTH does not lease or own such spaces, it can work to provide input.

“We are partnering with some [Indiana State University] classes to do some focus groups to find out what people are wanting downtown,” she said. “We hope we can become a gatekeeper for that information. If someone wants to see something downtown, they can share it with us. If somebody needs to know what people want in the downtown, they can come to us,” Klingerman said.

DTH, Klingerman said, is “really collaborating with the colleges to get students familiar with downtown and get student foot traffic downtown.”

“We are also working to really bring resources to the existing merchants. We are looking at education courses for them, such as how to run your business more efficiently, bringing resources to their fingertips and have them easily accessible,” she said.

Klingerman said DTH will continue the efforts of First Friday, in which downtown businesses host specials the first Friday of each month from 5 to 8 p.m.

The schedule of events is already established for the year. Each month has a theme.

“We are trying to load these First Friday events with multiple activities and get everyone to stay open,” she said.

DTH offers a shopping tote bag, which is currently $5 but will rise to $10 in March, which provides the shopper with special offers, which differ from merchant to merchant.

In addition, Klingerman is working to establish a “co-work space” downtown. That is being done through Tech Haute, of which Klingerman is a co-founder.

“It is a group that is working to get an infrastructure in place for entrepreneurs and start-ups, so we hopefully foster individuals to get their businesses up and going and rooted in Terre Haute as opposed to maybe not hav[ing] the support they need and go[ing] outside of Terre Haute,” she said.

The organization hosts a “meet-up” the third Thursday of each month. “We are bringing together people with ideas, graphic artists, developers, business leaders and potentially ‘angel investors’ who are listening” for new business. The first meeting, or Verge event, was in September.

The work space will be in the same building and same second floor as Downtown Terre Haute’s office at the corner of Seventh Street and Wabash Avenue, Klingerman said.

Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached at 812-231-4204 or howard.greninger@tribstar.com.

 

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