North Bend OKs contract with Downtown Foundation, looks to become mainstreet community

Contract gives nonprofit North Bend Downtown Foundation funds to hire full-time executive director

The North Bend Downtown Foundation was awarded funds to hire a full-time executive director and pursue Main Street accreditation under a contract approved by the city council this week.

Since its founding in 2014, the volunteer-run downtown foundation has worked to promote the city’s downtown-core, run and staff the city visitor center and help run events like Sip, Suds & Si and North Bend Block Party.

Under its new contract, foundation boardmembers and city officials say the group’s advocacy and revitalization work will expand to new heights – providing a critical link between the city and its downtown business owners.

“This has been a long time coming,” said Councilmember Mary Miller, chair of the economic development committee. “I’m happy to hear there’s new enthusiasm to take it in a different direction.”

The contract represents a significant investment in the downtown foundation, who will receive $250,000 from the city’s through its one-time, pandemic-relief funds. Those dollars are a portion of what the city received through the American Rescue Plan Act, a federal COVID-19 recovery bill passed during the Biden-administration.

The foundation would receive that funding over a three-year span, using it as a jumping off point to eventually become self-sustaining, foundation members said. The contract requires the foundation to produce a multi-year strategic plan that outlines its vision for the downtown-core and take on full-responsibility of running city events.

Foundation Boardmembers, many of whom are current or former business owners, say having an executive director will further the foundation’s work beyond what a volunteer organization is capable of.

Beth Burrows, a board member and owner of the North Bend Theater, told the city council as an all-volunteer board there were challenges running large community events and meeting the needs of all businesses.

“We have businesses, we have jobs, it’s hard for us. That’s why we want an executive director,” she said. “If we don’t have somebody dedicated to look at these things, we will suffer from the lack of attention.”

Hiring a director is also a requirement for North Bend to attain a Main Street Community Designation, a program from the state Department of Archaeology and Preservation that aids communities in improving their downtown-core. There are currently 38 other Mainstreet communities in the state.

While the executive director for the foundation would not be a city employee, they could function as a link between the city and its business owners, Burrows said.

“I believe a strong partnership between the city and [downtown foundation] will really ensure that success,” she said.

Alongside Burrows, foundation leadership includes Erin Craver, Gaila Haas, Lucas Haines and Nancy Wray, according to the Washington Secretary of State’s office.

North Bend Mayor Rob McFarland said he was excited about this contract finally coming to fruition after the idea first came up in 2020. The city has taken several stabs at similar partnerships, he said.

“This is putting the power in the community, in the business owners’ hands, with the seed money and a plan for how they can continue that moving forward,” he said. “I think it’s fantastic.”