The new website for the Downtown Roseburg Association is live at downtownroseburgassociation.org.
But the nonprofit association didn’t have a website for nearly three months after the original domain, downtownroseburg.org, expired and was purchased by onamae.com, a Japanese-based company. The company is offering to sell the domain for $499.
Susie Johnston-Forte was hired as the executive director of the association this summer after the former director, Alyssa McConnel, was fired for being critical of city government.
Johnston-Forte said the DRA has failed to deliver on some of its objectives, which are mandated by the city’s contract with the association, such as maintaining a functioning website with the domain downtownroseburg.org. Since she became the director, Johnston-Forte said she and the board of directors have focused on creating a financial sustainability plan and developing new membership incentives.
The association was created by the city in 2010 to promote businesses and nonprofits in Roseburg through promotional advertising, events, social media and online networking, according to the nonprofit’s contract with the city. It is part of the national Main Street Program, which seeks to revitalize the economies of historic neighborhoods. The DRA receives $22,500 — a third of its annual income — from the city’s hotel/motel tax.
Four weeks into her new position as executive director for the Downtown Roseburg Association…
“It was just a total accidental thing,” Johnston-Forte said about not renewing the original web domain. “It was one of the things, of a handful of things, that fell through the cracks when this changeover happened.”
During the public comment portion of city council meeting Monday, McConnel, the former DRA director, voiced her frustration with the association’s failure to deliver on some of its mandates since she was fired.
McConnell said the DRA hasn’t maintained an adequate online presence, produced a monthly newsletter, helped decorate storefronts or organize events that have happened in the past, such as wine walks and Small Business Saturday. Last weekend, Roseburg businesses participated in Small Business Saturday — the national event to encourage shopping at small businesses — by providing discounts to customers, but the DRA didn’t publicize the event.
“These things not only help businesses, but they also fulfill the contract of why the city pays $22,500 from the economic development fund from the hotel/motel tax for tourism,” McConnel said. “Events bring tourism.”
Johnston-Forte said there have been challenges with continuity and delivering on their contractual obligations since she became the director. But she said she’s happy will the progress the association is making to ensure a thriving downtown.
“We’re building,” Johnston-Forte said. “It’s been four months, and I wish with all my might that we could be further along than we are.”
She points to the new business sustainability plan she put together as an example of how the board is working toward to longterm stability of the DRA. In the past, all businesses paid a flat rate to be a member of the association. The DRA received $8,400 in membership dues last year. The new plan includes levels of membership, in which business pay based on the number of benefits they want.
Johnston-Forte said the new website is a work in progress being developed by Justin Deedon, who is on the DRA board and runs Umpqua Technology Nexus.
Deedon said that he’s currently working on an interactive map to highlight member businesses.
“The website will be a lot more user-friendly,” Deedon said. “It’s going to be a work in progress, I mean all of this is going to be a work in progress.”