Inspiration made an appearance this past week at the Michigan Downtown Conference in Kalamazoo, MI. I attended many fantastic sessions on various topics (alternative funding sources, branding, in-store events, etc.). As time went on, I realized that there was a common message connecting all the information I heard throughout the conference. The message? Stop doing what you've always done - start thinking differently. The playing field has changed. It's not about change for the sake of change, but reacting to a new landscape that throws the traditional rule book for downtown revitalization out the window.
It all came together for me as I was listening to Closing Session Speaker Rob Bliss talk about his creative perspective and how he brought some pretty off-the-wall events to life in Grand Rapids, MI. Have you heard of the Grand Rapids Lip Dub? (4 million YouTube hits and counting) As he took us on a "tour" of his creative mind, one thing became clear. He wasn't telling us to all go out and replicate what he did. He was encouraging us to find the creative people in our community and engage them in our revitalization efforts.
On the three-hour ride home, I took time to reflect on what I learned over the past two days and started translating it into something I could use. The word that kept coming into my head over and over was engagement. What are we doing to engage all segments of our community? Are we successfully telling our story to our residents and visitors? Are we asking for their support, rather than waiting for them to come to us? Yep, looks like I've got a lot of work ahead of me. I always know that a conference was worth the time spent if it sends my mind spinning in all directions with new ideas and inspirations. The Michigan Downtown Conference was a home run for me.
So whether you're tossing 100,000 paper airplanes off downtown rooftops, creating art out of scrap yard finds or covering historic buildings every four inches with Christmas lights, inspiration comes in many forms. Don't be afraid of new ideas just because they have never been done before. Embrace them for within those opportunities you may find the means to set your downtown on the path to future stability and success.