All News News Posted December 28, 2020 By Choose Marshall

2020 Year in Review

Choose Marshall: 2020 in review and plans for success in 2021

A story about a year that includes a global pandemic, widespread rioting, an economic collapse, and a never-ending presidential campaign sounds more like a work of apocalyptic fiction rather than a year-end review. Alas, this is the year 2020, not the next Stephen King novel.

I am not Mad Max, just the CEO of Choose Marshall, also known as the Marshall Area Economic Development Alliance (MAEDA). Choose Marshall is the economic development agency that serves the Marshall community. Our mission is to help improve the economic well-being and quality of life of Marshall residents by promoting tourism and business growth. We have a great team that runs the Welcome Center, the Chamber of Commerce, and supports a variety of economic development initiatives in the community.

How do we promote economic well-being and quality of life in such a challenging year? By pulling together as a community in a thoughtful and deliberate way and creatively solve problems as they arise. It is always important to keep moving forward despite challenges rather than to give up and lose momentum; this is true in life as well as in economic development work.

Over the past nine months, Choose Marshall has focused on the businesses hardest hit by Covid-19 and the new regulatory restrictions on small businesses, especially food service, retail, and entertainment. Through Choose Marshall funds and additional stakeholder support, we have raised of $130,000 in funding to support our own local Covid-19 Relief Program and the Marshall Bucks matching program. These funds flow directly to our local small businesses. We will continue to expand on these initiatives in the months ahead.

In partnership with the City of Marshall and participating food services businesses, we also launched the Marshall Social District to help create a safe place for outdoor dining. We provided funding and staff support to help build out this space and will be working aggressively to expand this effort as part of a broader placemaking strategy in the months ahead. This effort will increase commercial activity for Marshall businesses and enhance our tourism efforts as we create a vibrant outdoor opportunity for food service and other commercial and community activities in the downtown area.

In addition to launching the Marshall Social District and ramping up our advertising and marketing support for Marshall businesses, Choose Marshall has also invested in providing support to our local businesses to help them sell service and products to customers over the internet. This has included investing in a new web portal to help businesses build their web presence as well as streamlining our tourism website to make it easier for customers to access businesses through a one-stop online marketplace. We will be providing additional business development services in the months ahead.

With challenges posed by Covid-19 and new regulatory restrictions, we developed new and creative ways to move forward with community events and business networking. We launched Covid-19-safe versions of our signature events: the Christmas Parade, Celebration of Trees, SkeletonFest and the Donut Roll. We also continued safe business development and networking efforts, including over 80 newsletters, monthly virtual “What’s Brewing” meetings, and dozens of targeted business and community meetings focused on new MIOSHA guidelines, grant funding for small businesses, and Q&As with community leaders and state experts. Before Covid-19 hit in March and during brief windows when cases were down over the summer, we also conducted business retention visits, ribbon cuttings, a Small Business Academy, and other events.

Our business development work also includes launching a new property development and business growth strategies with our largest employers. Through streamlining and enhancing our website, producing new videos, market sheets and narratives, and conducting investor outreach, we promoted the development of key properties in the Marshall area. We are also working to support Marshall’s largest businesses, through efforts to access new state and federal resources, identify new business-to-business opportunities and strengthening the Marshall Manufacturers Association (MMA). Choose Marshall will be expanding on these efforts in 2021.

Choose Marshall would like to express our appreciation to everyone who has partnered with us to help promote the community’s success. We look forward to putting the challenges posed by Covid-19 behind us and launching forward into 2021 stronger, wiser and more resourceful.

Wishing you health and happiness in the new year!

James Durian, CEO, Choose Marshall