The Community Development Building Explained
You may know the property at 235 W. Chisholm as The Community Development Building, The Zeller Building, The Chamber Office, or maybe the brick building next to the bike shop, across from where the old Kentucky Motor Lodge used to be. However you refer to it, do you know what goes on inside? Did you know there are four separate organizations inside the building? Do you know the difference between each?
The building itself is owned by the chamber of commerce. Inside exists the Alpena Area Chamber of Commerce (Chamber)/Target Alpena Economic Development Corporation (Target), Alpena Area Convention and Visitor's Bureau (CVB), and the Alpena Downtown Development (DDA) Authority. Each organization has a specific mission and purpose but they share a larger goal of improving Alpena. It's the specific way each organization achieves that vision that differentiates them. So, in fitting Alpena fashion, let's dive in!
The Chamber is a private, nonprofit business organization. It is funded through membership investments from businesses and other organizations, as well as a variety of other sources like fundraisers and affiliate agreements. Its mission is to work through its members to create a better business climate for the area they serve. The Chamber is not funded through tax dollars (except in the case that a municipality chooses to be a member) and is not structured under the state or national chambers. Chambers were designed to be lobbying organizations and are formed with a 501(c)6 designation for that purpose. The Chamber achieves their mission primarily through lobbying, education, member programs and services, and community concierge services.
Target is also a private, non-profit organization. Their mission is to carry out economic development activities. Target and the Chamber recently implemented a new working relationship that changed the structure of Target. Target is now funded through the Chamber's membership investments, with members choosing what tier to lend their support, sometimes going well above and beyond even the top tier as in the case of the city. Target is also staffed by Chamber employees. This created a healthier public/private partnership for economic development and kept economic development funded. Target carries out their mission through creating new relationships, assisting start ups, and assisting existing businesses with growth and expansion opportunities.
The CVB is a nonprofit organization that markets the area it serves. The primary source of funding for the CVB is the room assessment collected by major lodging properties in Alpena County. Associate memberships also support the CVB's primary mission of marketing Alpena as a tourist destination. The CVB achieves their mission through its website, visitor's guide and advertising campaign, which includes the Alpena Pure Michigan partnership campaign.
The DDA was established under state law to promote and improve the economic development of the downtown district. A business located within the DDA boundaries automatically becomes a DDA member. There are no dues or fees to belong to the DDA. Rather, a portion of the property taxes already assessed are diverted to the DDA. The DDA structure results in the creation of a public board dedicated solely to the improvement of the downtown. The DDA accomplishes their mission by offering programs targeted at new and existing businesses in a variety of areas.
It is not uncommon for people to confuse these organizations. It is somewhat expected given the fine lines between the four organizations. It is unique to our community for the four entities to exist together. With such fine lines between what each entity does, residing together (and yes, sometimes it feels like we actually live here) creates an awesome alliance and great collaboration. Next time you drive, walk, skip, bike, or crawl (as in September's Grub Crawl) past this building, you now have a better understanding of what's happening on the inside. Do what you will with this information but my hope is that with each new level of understanding we have about our community, we can move forward in a more unified, collective manner.
Jackie Krawczak is the executive director of the Alpena Area Chamber of Commerce. Her column appears bi-weekly on Tuesdays.