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A true collaborative effort between local government and the business community has revitalized the historic downtown at the heart of West Branch. Like CreateHere co-founder Helen Johnson's placemaking presentation at Convention, West Branch's Fabulous Fridays program shows how grassroots community-based efforts can fuel economic growth and reenergize the historic downtowns that were once at the heart of every city, village and town. This CEA finalist demonstrates how business and government working together can help our downtowns to once again become the "place" that helps define a community.
West Branch's Fabulous Fridays started a few years ago and has cranked up the city's historic downtown economy with themed Fridays, including a very popular Gong Show and Classic Chassis car show. More than 14,000 people attended over the last three summers and business is up 10-15 percent annually in the small town. The Fabulous Fridays increase the exposure to the downtown business district in the city and has generated a lot of interest in West Branch overall. It also brings back that clasic small town feel of a true community gathering.
According to this Ogemaw County Herald story, West Branch has been working on a major street reconstruction project and has been approved for a DNR matching grant for a river trail project next year, but they've also been making time to put the finishing touches on their presentation for the League's Community Excellence Award during the League's Annual Convention Oct. 5-7 in Grand Rapids.
West Branch won the Region Six award in May for its Fabulous Fridays, and will compete against Southfield's Field Zone Youth Center, Paw Paw's "Uncork Paw Paw" campaign, Ludington's winter Ball Drop celebration, Clare's Cops & Doughnuts bakery, Vassar's Chill on the Hill, and Marquette's waterfront safety initiative.
The CEA presentations are always a major highlight of Convention, when finalists from each of the League's seven regions are recognized for their best and brightest accomplishments. Only one region will walk off with the 2011 CEA. The only way to vote is to be at the Convention. Make sure to support your region finalist this year!
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