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Red Wing Downtown Main Street: Forward with momentum

Andrew Peterson was recognized as the winner of Downtown Main Street's retail challenge. He opened Red Wing Bicycle & Outfitter on Main Street in September last year. Photo by Samantha Bengs

At Red Wing Downtown Main Street's annual meeting, executive director Megan Tsui reported on the group's efforts of the past year with great enthusiasm.

"It was a big year for us," Tsui said to community members and business owners gathered at the St. James Hotel.

Tsui's enthusiasm was well-befitting — the organization had a banner year, as members learned Tuesday night.

Three new businesses opened as a result of the DTMS's Retail Challenge, pop-up vendors utilized empty storefront during the holiday season and over $40,000 worth of grants and in-kind incentives were put together with the Port Authority.

"There was no staff," Tsui said. "This was all volunteer-driven."

Tsui's role with the organization officially began in November of 2016.

The 15th anniversary of DTMS' largest event — the Holiday Stroll — drew a crowd of 15,000 attendees. The holiday lights and garland strung atop downtown building as well as autumn corn stalks were possible by the hands of DTMS volunteers. In all, Tsui said, more than 1,580 volunteer hours were served in 2016. The organization gained six new members, bringing total membership up to 107 local businesses.

Revving after the Revolution

The nationwide Small Business Revolution contest hosted by the Deluxe Corp. made a significant impact on the community in the early months of 2017. Community support harnessed during the voting process is a major part of the organization's plans moving forward. Tsui said, despite not being crowned the winning community, Red Wing gained more than $1 million in media and press coverage and hundreds of thousands of posts and views on social media platforms. Red Wing finished in second place, falling just shy of a $500,000 revitalization package.

"We've had a lot of people come up to us and ask why we can't do that on our own," Tsui said. "We can, and we are planning our Red Wing revolution."

Tsui outlined the organization's plans to raise funds for a community-driven revolution.

"There were over 500 people in the Sheldon gathered in support for Red Wing," Tsui said. "If everyone gave a little bit of money, we can start our own revolution."

Tsui said DTMS has been speaking with foundations and other organizations about matching funds. A marketing and branding seminar for the community — presented by Deluxe — is being planned for May 17.

"We are still planning what our revolution will look like, but we want to move quickly and not lose momentum," Tsui said.

Some additional goals for DTMS in 2017 include adding staff to support the growth of the organization. Tsui said a office coordinator and event coordinator will be hired soon.

The group is planning a mid-winter event for 2018 and an event centered on Old West Main Street, in addition to Holiday Stroll and other annual activities.

With the recent news of approval for an Olympic ski jump in Frontenac, Tsui said DTMS will work University of Minnesota Extension to research its economic impact.

"With the help of the Department of Community Vitality and Tourism. We will do a study to know what we need to be prepared for with an attraction of that size," Tsui said. "This could be a major impact and we need to be ready."

To the 50 attendees gathered for the annual meeting, Tsui gave a call to action.

"We need everyone's help in finding ways that we can make our Red Wing revolution work," she said. "Anyone interested in participating with the planning process is welcome."

Visit www.downtownredwing.org to connect with leadership and learn more about DTMS projects.

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