From the Main Street Director’s Desk
How Grayling became a Main Street community
by Rae Gosling | Grayling Main Street Executive Director
Greetings Avalanche readers, I am Rae Gosling, the Grayling Main Street Executive Director. I look forward to sharing the history of the Grayling Main Street Program, as well as what our organization does with the community. The ultimate goal of Grayling Main Street is to revitalize the economy of our community by focusing on economic development and historical preservation of our downtown. I will share with you how we got here, what we have already accomplished, and what we continue to do to meet that goal.
Grayling area residents and members of the business community came together in 2012 to economically develop Grayling’s downtown district.
The Grayling Main Street program is an achievement reached by the collective efforts of our community’s commitment to economic development and long-term sustainability. The program’s inception, and continued growth, was and continues to be fueled by volunteers dedicated to the success of Grayling for today, and many tomorrows.
The search for a dedicated program to achieve downtown development started with the newly formed AuSable Artisan Village (AAV). Grayling had an established Downtown Development Authority (DDA) that was focused on infrastructure and some downtown events, but there was little emphasis on economic development at the time. A founding member of AAV, Terry Dickinson, in conjunction with other artists and members realized that their blossoming gallery would not thrive in Grayling without a concerted effort for re-development and revival of Grayling’s main street, Michigan Avenue.
When a fellow artist offered an article on Michigan Main Street Communities Dickinson began exploring the possibility of application, weighing the benefits of the program, and evaluating the success probability of the Main Street 4-Point Approach in Grayling.
Dickinson approached Grayling City Manager Doug Baum with the information he had collected about Michigan Main Street, seeking city support. Baum was open to the concept of developing a Main Street program in Grayling, but he expressed concern regarding the strain it might create on the DDA. Ultimately, Baum encouraged Dickinson to apply to Michigan Main Street for Grayling to become an Associate Level Community, as he saw the potential value for the community.
In the fall of 2012 Dickinson, on behalf of the AuSable Artisan Village and the City of Grayling, applied to the Michigan Main Street Center seeking approval for Grayling to become an Associate Level Main Street Community. In January of 2013 Grayling was welcomed as an Associate Level Main Street Community.
Main Street communities have three distinctions: Associate, Select, and Master. These distinctions can be likened to apprenticeship, journeyman status, and mastery. Learning and understanding, followed but practicing and modifying the skills of the trade, culminating in mastery of the art.
The Associate level is likened to being the apprentice. It is a community’s opportunity to find out more about what it takes to be successful in this program. The main focus of Associate level communities is generating volunteer interest, community buy-in, and financial projections for the program.
The Select level is similar to the Journeyman stage, a trained but still developing role. Select level communities receive concentrated guidance and training to build the program.
Master level communities are just that, Masters. At this stage community have demonstrated their ability to budget, manage, and execute the goals of the community using the Main Street 4-Point Approach. They remain active in training as is necessary for the ongoing success of any Master.
Shortly after receiving approval for the Associate level distinction in 2013, Grayling Revitalization Improvement Project, or GRIP, was formed to spearhead the tasks needed to take Grayling from an Associate level community to a Select level community. GRIP began holding regular meetings to collect the needed information for the next application. The first major task to undertake was defining the Main Street Area and compiling property information for that area. A comprehensive inventory was created including: building and business owner information, square footage, property value, and photos.
In October of 2013 GRIP invited Michigan Main Street Center to Grayling for a pair of informational meetings to the business community and residents of the Grayling area. This was designed to tackle the next major task, a two-part task, generating community support and developing a proposed budget for the program.
The first of the two meetings, held on the same day, was hosted at Camp Grayling. There were approximately 70 business and community stakeholders present, including high-ranking members of the National Guard. Laura Krizov, with the Michigan Main Street Center, was impressed with the significant business representative turnout. The second meeting was hosted that evening for the residents of the Grayling area at the American Legion Hall. Approximately 120 residents attended. Krizov was amazed at the incredible turnout. Most often, only 20 to 30 residents attend sessions like that.
GRIP used the October 2013 meetings to engage stakeholders as volunteers and financial backers for the Grayling Main Street Program. They asked for information to build a volunteer list, as well as pledges to support the programs expenses. With the information gathered GRIP set to completing the application to move from the Associate level to the Select level.
In December of 2013 the application was submitted to Michigan Main Street Center and the GRIP committee was invited to present their case to the approval panel. In preparation for the presentation to Michigan Main Street panelists, GRIP called on community members to contribute. A skit was produced, a song was recorded, and a passionate address was scripted. Several members of GRIP, as well as community stakeholders and city staff, made the wintery trek to Lansing in December 2013 in hopes of graduating from the Associate level to the Select level.
Early in 2014 GRIP was notified that all the hard work done in Grayling was being rewarded. Grayling was approved to advance to the Select level as a Michigan Main Street Community. In the spring of 2014 a public announcement was made and met with excitement from the community.
Want to know what Grayling Main Street has done since earning Select level distinction in 2014? Check back in future editions of the Avalanche for more from the Main Street Director’s desk. You can also check out our website, www.DowntownGrayling.com, find us on Facebook, or email your questions to DowntownGrayling@gmail.com.
Rae Gosling is the Grayling Main Street Executive Director. She has been with the program since April 2016. She started as the Interim Director and transitioned to being the permanent director in August 2016. She is a Grayling resident, wife, mother, local shopper, avid supporter of all things Grayling, and keeps everyone on their toes wondering what color her eye shadow and hair will be next.