Downtown advocates have been pushing for months for an economic-development coordinator dedicated to the success of Sarasota’s downtown businesses.
Through a public-private partnership, they finally have their man.
The city, Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce and Downtown Improvement District worked together to appoint Randy Welker as that coordinator.
March 29 was his first day on the job.
“I’ve been coming (to Sarasota) for years,” said Welker. “It’s a very nice place to live.”
Welker was the economic-development coordinator for Delray Beach before accepting this job. During his four years in the East Coast town, he visited St. Armands Circle many times. He wanted to see if he could entice some of its shops and restaurants to open second locations in Delray Beach.
He’ll now be trying to find businesses that fit in with Sarasota’s existing shops and restaurants.
“Look at shopping malls,” he said. “They have a great mix (of stores) that create vitality.”
Welker wants to create the same kind of mix on Main Street. His first task is to identify what kind of businesses are already successful and then see what is missing.
“I’ve already heard that people want a downtown drugstore,” he said. “So, we need to find one.”
He also plans to talk to business owners to see what kinds of shops they feel will complement their businesses.
Location is key to helping downtown Sarasota thrive. Welker said it currently suffers from the “barbell effect,” meaning both the east and west sides of Main Street have successful businesses, but in between is somewhat barren.
Welker will talk to the property owners in that in-between territory to see what he can do to revitalize that area.
He knows that things aren’t going to change overnight, but he’s optimistic about the future of downtown.
“You have to develop a long-term plan, but visions can become reality, as long as people work hard toward the goal,” he said.
Randy Welker has more than 20 years of economic-development experience and has earned key certifications, including Certified Economic Developer and Economic Development Finance Professional.
Contact Robin Roy at firstname.lastname@example.org
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