Getting the word out about all the cool stuff stirring on Auburn’s business front is more than a job to Economic Development Manager Jenn Francis — it clearly delights her.
At the July 10 city council study session, Francis offered her quarterly update and shared her delight in the murals, spruced-up storefronts, new businesses opening downtown, the community’s embrace of its existing businesses and more.
Her delight was palpable in the “huge” 4-by-40-foot-long banner that Auburn Chamber of Commerce Director Kacie Bray and her crew designed to hang during the upcoming NHRA Northwest Nationals at Pacific Races July 21 to July 23.
The event, Francis said, will draw thousands of people into the city, filling its hotels. It seems Top Fuel Dragsters, Top Fuel Funny Cars, and for the first time ever at Pacific Raceways Pro Stock Motorcycles, tend to act like human magnets.
To backtrack a bit, the fun starts off from 5-8 p.m. July 20 at the Outlet Collection when Dave and Buster’s plays host to the Pacific Raceways Fan Fest, which will offer tickets, giveaways, food, cars to ooh and awe over — heck, maybe a driver or two.
Francis and Economic Development Coordinator Abid Rahmani are the only two employees in the division, and they are busy on many fronts.
Francis enthused over the upcoming economic development partnership with Auburn’s Business Improvement Area (BIA) committee and the Downtown Auburn Cooperative (DAC). The BIA has funded several projects administered by the DAC, including updates to existing paintings on the outsides of several business storefronts downtown — that is, the AgriShop, Main Street Legal, the Downtown Auburn Cooperative, and the most recent on the store called A Little Knitty, in addition to a lighting plan and artistic bike racks.
There are also new murals, like the one on the corner of Main and Auburn Way North with its pleasing depiction of greenery and Mount Rainier.
Francis said the Downtown Auburn Cooperative has drafted a contract for business and building owners to participate in the mural-making now visible. Several additional businesses have expressed interest in having those murals, she said, and those are in the pipeline waiting for final arrangements.
Jenn Reeves, owner of A Little Knitty, once had a display with genuine knitting, but unknown people took advantage of multiple opportunities to cut away the yarn.
A lot of effort has gone toward giving downtown businesses a sense of ownership in what’s going on, Francis said.
“We try to sit down and think about how can we engage the downtown businesses in a more thoughtful way, making sure that we have those touch points more often,” Francis said.
Recently, her department created monthly engagement flyers, one of the first of them dedicated to ensuring that everyone in the downtown understands the See, Click, Fix app and how to use it.
As she explained:
“It’s important that those business owners when they see something, they feel like they’re empowered; that they have something they can do when they see, whether it’s graffiti or storm drainage or shopping carts on Main Street, they feel like they have power to do something themselves and don’t have to call the city, although we welcome those phone calls,” Francis said.
Last quarter there were downtown Auburn ribbon cuttings for Emerald City Fashion Roses Maker’s Market Boutique and Smokes on Main next door to A Little Knitty.