“A total team effort.”
That’s the consensus of the city staff who banded together to compile the city’s snapshot to present to the Main Street Alabama panel of judges.
Enterprise is one of four cities selected this year for Main Street Alabama Designation by the statewide nonprofit organization whose focus is revitalizing the state’s historic communities through a proven four-point approach to organization, design, promotion and economic vitality.
Enterprise had been a Main Street Alabama Network Community for about a year but applied for “designation” status for the first time this year.
City of Enterprise Tourism Director Tammy Doerer served as liaison between the city and the Main Street group during the entire process. “I was the mediator so I got to see all of it come together from the beginning,” Doerer said as she, Special Project Coordinator Kay Kirkland, Communications Director Jason Wright and Interim Director of Engineering Services Staci Hayes reflected on the city’s successful first-time application.
“I think mutual respect started to happen during the application process and that is what is so important in a group project,” Doerer said. “It was the beginning of a lot of collaboration moving forward and I think what everyone gained was a mutual respect.”
Kirkland agreed. “With so many entities involved we met and interacted with groups of people that we had not interacted with before,” she said. “My understanding and awareness increased a lot.
“We gained a better understanding of what the city council has to do, a better understanding of what has happened in the past to prepare our downtown and make it presentable for something like this to happen,” Kirkland added. “I think that it brought us all an understanding that will help us into the future.”
Downtown business owner and then Downtown Enterprise Business Association President Debbie Gaydos initially brought the concept of Main Street to the attention of the Enterprise City Council. At that time, a new city clerk-treasurer had just been hired and the tourism director position remained vacant, so Wright was sent to attend the first Main Street Application Workshop. “We could have put the document together but there is no way possible that we could have put our best foot forward,” he said as he recalled the meeting he attended some two years ago.
When Doerer was hired, she was tasked with researching Main Street Alabama and presenting her recommendation to the city council. She and Kirkland attended a mandatory Main Street Application Workshop in Elba. “Main Street holds five application workshops throughout the state each year and you need to attend in order to submit an application,” Wright said.
“One of the strengths we have is the number of businesses that are downtown,” Doerer said, citing also the sidewalks and the aesthetics of the flowers on the ornate streetlights. “Our partnership with the Chamber of Commerce and city government is another of the strengths that we listed.
“Not one person had all the information,” Doerer said about the comprehensive application. “Just the process of doing the application let us realize that there has to be a lot of people involved.
“Submitting the application we started to look at how we all needed to be involved,” Doerer said. “‘What shoes need to be under the table?’ is the way that Main Street puts it.”
“Main Street says they don’t want just stilettos and wingtips under the table, they want boots, they want tennis shoes, they want bare feet, they want everybody at the table,” added Wright. “When I went to the (Main Street Application) workshop in Birmingham, they said it would be a ‘red flag’ if any one group put the application together.”
Wright credits the city council for their vision and “buy-in” to Main Street. “I want to give them a lot of credit because we can support it and move it forward but without their blessing, there is no financing.”
After receiving a “green light” from the council, the work began in earnest, Doerer said. Hayes agreed. “Through this process, everybody learned something new,” she said.
With questions on the application including infrastructure, real estate and businesses in the historic district, compiling the data involved most of the city departments as well as the Wiregrass Economic Development Corporation Executive Director Jonathan Tullos. Century 21 assisted with the commercial real estate research, Doerer said.
A team was formed to compile the information and create a presentation that captured the spirit of the city and Main Street’s four-point approach to success, Doerer said, crediting Lydia Dillingham, Susan Gilmore and actors from Southern Broadway on Main Street.
Wright explained that maps, planning and zoning, community development, building code and comprehensive plan all fall under the department of engineering. “For that information we relied heavily on Staci and her team to be able to provide this for our application,” he said.
Doerer said she reached out to Stephanie Crowe from the Revenue Department and Lon Jones and Tanji Hill who created the district map and assisted with property owner information.
“We essentially compiled our community profile,” Wright said. “And Main Street will plug our information into their formulas, their matrix system, in setting up their recommendations for Enterprise.”
“Even if we didn’t win we would have had an excellent snapshot and a great base to apply from next year,” Doerer said. “They wanted history. They wanted to know what is your plan? What have you done?”
The city had compiled a Comprehensive Plan in 2010 that includes a 10-year plan, Kirkland said, adding that the sidewalks, decorative lampposts and pavers were part of that downtown revitalization. “We were several steps ahead of most city in that respect,” she said. “We were strong there.
“I think it gave us a boost that we already had some good things done downtown. We researched back to 2002-2003 and saw that the cities had started making big changes and improvements downtown,” Kirkland added. “It showed (the Main Street Alabama judges) that the city has had a history of interest and willingness to invest in and improve downtown.”
The five-month application process continued, locally, right up until the deadline. “Tammy texted me at 8:30 or 9 p.m. that night asking me to type something up,” Wright remembered with a smile. “We were still working on the application up until the deadline.”
That is true, Doerer said, shaking her head and smiling. In fact, the final “send” button was pushed at 11:58 p.m., she said. The application was due at midnight.
“I can tell you that we wouldn’t have done anything different,” Doerer said. “I thought that what we presented was authentic to us. I think we did a good job.”
Kirkland said that one historic photo of several of the city fathers gathered in downtown Enterprise in 1919 has caused her to reflect on the city’s history. Main Street was then comprised of a general store and a post office. “That was downtown Enterprise in 1919,” Kirkland said. “I like to think they’d be proud of what the people of Enterprise have done in 2019. I think they would be proud.”
Doerer agreed. “Along the way we have educated a lot of people, including ourselves, about what Main Street Alabama is but we all have a lot more to be educated on,” she said. “This is just the beginning.”