Investing in Yourself = Great ROI for Your Community

When was the last time you invested in yourself, professionally? We at PLACE are just back from a phenomenal conference in Ottawa, Canada for the 60th Annual International Downtown Association conference, and we couldn’t be more pleased with the value we got from attending sessions, meeting practitioners from around the world and encouraging attendees to be mindful of placemaking through our engaging PLACE game at our booth.

More than 600 people attended the conference, most from North America, but also including representation from South Africa, the United Kingdom and the Bahamas. We were treated to a mix of “Master Talks,” mobile workshops, tours, presentations and networking over cocktails in unique settings, and the second day breakfast sessions featured a First Nation storyteller and a mini-outdoor market that featured maple syrup and other delicious concoctions.

What I most appreciate about the annual IDA conference is people’s willingness to engage and learn from one another. Many attendees this year were new to IDA and were eager to meet folks from other parts of the world and exchange best practices and information.

I had the opportunity to meet some of the people behind the revitalization and rebuilding of downtown Detroit, like Dan Carmody, President, Eastern Market Corporation, who spoke passionately about the need for fresh, locally sourced produce and how that runs counter to grocery and food conglomerates. I spent time with Eric Jones from the Downtown Detroit Partnership, which recently renewed and expanded their BID successfully, and Jason Zogg, of DTE Energy, one of the partners in the city’s rebirth.

I was inspired by Dan Biederman, CEO of Biederman Redevelopment Ventures in New York City, and co-founder of the Bryant Park Corporation and 34th Street Partnership, as he gave his "Master Talk" and challenged us to spend our dollars on quality programming in new spaces rather than expensive infrastructure or cost-prohibitive attractions. Prema Katari Gupta, the Director of Planning and Economic Development at University City District in West Philadelphia, was the perfect person to provide specifics on how to do that as she enumerated the many ways in which her organization used data collection to fine tune their programming and services in an area called The Porch.

Mark your calendars for next year’s conference in San Francisco, September 30 - October 2, 2015. Invest in yourself and in your community by making plans now to be there. You and your district are worth it.