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New business group director hopes to attract businesses to Lincoln Park district

Lincoln Park Business Group is among the first organizations of its kind in the city to hire an executive director. The move to hire Mark Jennings on as staff is indicative of a shift among business groups away from a social organization toward a...

Lincoln Park Business Group is among the first organizations of its kind in the city to hire an executive director.
The move to hire Mark Jennings on as staff is indicative of a shift among business groups away from a social organization toward a more civically involved group. According to his job description, Jennings will "assist and promote the Lincoln Park community through business and economic development activities."
"It's pretty new," Jennings said. "We're starting at the ground floor. We want to help attract businesses to Lincoln Park and consumers to shop here. We will be assisting new businesses to get started by linking them with agencies which provide funding and or training. We'll also be a resource for people looking to locate their businesses in Lincoln Park, or if they're in Lincoln Park, to expand their businesses."
Funding for the executive director position came from Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC). LISC also provided funding to Lincoln Park for other things like organization, equipment and a computer. "They've done that because Lincoln Park has been identified as an area where assistance to the businesses is important to the community," Jennings said.
Having an executive director on board will mean less lost opportunities said LPBG president Greg Brisky. "It's having someone to communicate with the city and someone who can actively look at the concerns around here," Brisky said. "There are a lot of different opportunities where having someone there to work with the property owner or with the city will be a real advantage."
The other advantage, said Brisky, is Jennings' personality. "The business group is going to probably work in the future with the community," Brisky said. "He's got a good personality -- that's a big part of it. It's important to have someone that's likeable."
There are many areas of concern for Lincoln Park business owners, including the city's storefront program. Right now it only applies to stores on Superior Street in Lincoln Park, not those located on Third Street, a major corridor in that neighborhood. Jennings will also be working on establishing a data base of what property is available for development in Lincoln Park.
Other entities like the Lincoln Park Neighborhood Coalition, At-Home in Duluth project and the Third Street revitalization program have similar goals, and Jennings says he hopes they will coordinate efforts. "What we see here is a connection between the commercial district in Lincoln Park and the residential district," he said. "We see a common interest here and a partnership."
Lincoln Park Business Group is going to be focusing on three geographical areas: Third Street from Harrison Community Center to 27th Avenue West and changes along the corridor affected by the Michigan Street realignment, which is scheduled to happen this year. "The new road raises opportunities for use of the existing street and the property between the old and new streets," Jennings said. The third area is the entrance to Lincoln Park from the east at Superior Street and Garfield. These three areas of focus were identified at a recent meeting of the LPBG.
"What we want to do a year from now is identify clear and dramatic improvements to our community," Jennings said.

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