01/19/12 — D.A.M. will set sights on new vision

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D.A.M. will set sights on new vision

By Ty Johnson
Published in News on January 19, 2012 1:46 PM

A downtown merchant and prominent figure on the Downtown Goldsboro Development Corp. board of directors has stepped down from his role to create a separate downtown organization uniting downtown business owners.

Matt Young, an owner of The Flying Shamrock on John Street, emailed a resignation letter to board members Jan. 11 notifying them he would no longer be a part of the board and announcing the founding of Downtown Area Merchants. D.A.M. is envisioned to be a loose collective of downtown merchants to enhance communication and to provide for collaboration among them, something Young said has been missing from downtown.

"What I saw was that we didn't necessarily know our neighbors as well as we should," he said. "We weren't getting the synergy we could from the other merchants."

Young said more communication between merchants could allow businesses to learn from each others' mistakes.

"We may try an advertising campaign, it wouldn't work, and then two weeks later someone else would try it," he said, adding that the sharing of good ideas could likewise bring more success downtown.

Young said there will be no officers or dues, and the makeup of the group will be informal, although he wants the members of the group to play a large part in deciding what the group will actually be. Merchants could get together and discuss ways to split up advertising costs or synchronize specials.

"It's just kind of a let's get together as merchants and talk about how the month went," he said.

But the group would also be a resource for new businesses, too, all in an effort to keep Young's overall goal intact.

"My goal with this is just to see no more businesses close downtown," he said.

And Young said the need to act quickly pushed him to resign now instead of waiting until his term with the DGDC board ended this fall.

"The need was immediate. There are a lot of businesses that are really struggling," he said. "Until downtown is a destination and people just head downtown -- that's when we'll be successful."

And as far as hesitation to collaborate with "competitors," Young said he didn't expect that every business would work with every other business, but that through talks with merchants, it seemed they would welcome more businesses.

"They're not fearful of competition," he said. "They're fearful of being isolated."

Young explained he had no issues with the DGDC, but felt he could make a bigger difference uniting merchants in an effort to keep commerce moving downtown. He also envisions many opportunities to partner with the organization along with the Wayne County Chamber of Commerce and Travel and Tourism.

The group isn't the area's first attempt to begin a merchant association, but Young hopes this one will have staying power unlike the failed endeavor from about eight years ago. The difference, though, as DGDC Director Julie Thompson points out, is that organization was born from the city's staff.

"Those that are strongest involve the private sector," she said of other merchant associations across the country. "And when both of those efforts exist, you typically have a stronger downtown than otherwise. It's good to have private interest and involvement and pride in what they're doing."

Although Ms. Thompson hadn't met with her board since Young left, she said last week that through talking with the executive board she saw no signs that the board would hesitate to collaborate with D.A.M.

And while she said Young's voice on the board would be sorely missed, she was also hopeful about his organization.

"He couldn't be leaving for a better reason," she said.