Saturday, September 04, 1999

Director's goal: To revitalize Harrison

Richards to head Main Street group

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HARRISON — Main Street Harrison Inc. has a new man with a mission.

        Gary Richards, 37, will take over as executive director of the program and guide its efforts to revitalize downtown.

        He will write grant proposals, work with government leaders and business owners and do his best to boost Harrison's appeal.

        Main Street is responsible for staging the annual Celebration of the Arts and Christmas programs, designed to lure residents and visitors into downtown shops.

        “We've got the program. It's up and running smoothly. When you're first starting it, you need to do exactly what we've done — promotions to get people downtown and getting buildings renovated,” said Councilwoman Judy Kircheval, crediting Main Street's founding director, Jerry Caruso, for those accomplishments.

        “What we've got to focus on now, in the next three to five years, is the economic restructuring. You still need to have your promotions ... but if there's nothing downtown, there's no point in getting people there,” she said.

        Mr. Caruso left to pursue consulting and other business interests.

        Mr. Richards worked with the Greater Erie County Marketing Group in Sandusky. He has experience in economic and community development, marketing, planning, travel and tourism.

        “He has such a good background in planning and economic development and that's the phase we want to go in now. And he does grant writing and, as everybody knows, it's getting harder and harder to get funds,” Ms. Kircheval said.

        Like many small urban business districts, downtown Harrison began to decline years ago when shopping malls sprouted. Merchants are competing with strips of shops on “the hill” of Harrison Avenue near the Interstate 74 ramps.

        Under Main Street planning, downtown shops have begun to rebound.

        “Harrison has its own unique charms and assets that we'll bring forward and promote,” said Mr. Richards, who starts work Sept. 20.


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