By Santiago Montiel Staff Writer
Old Town attracted almost five times as much private investment in 2012 than in 2011, but many business owners acknowledge that the commercial association works on a tight budget.
Don McNabb, board president of the Old Town Commercial Association, OTCA, wrote in 2012’s annual report, “The OTCA has become a more sustainable organization.” The same report shows that the profit after expenses in 2012 was almost $11,000. In the prior year, that number was $54,646.
Old Town has seen financial improvements in recent years. According to the OTCA’s report, almost $400,000 was invested in 2012. That represents an almost five-fold increase compared to 2011 when they received $81,700. Most of that investment was directed to the restoration of the “Walker Building” located on the corner of Grand River and Washington avenues.
Louise Gradwohl, executive director of the OTCA said that the association has “scraped through” several tough moments including the 2008 recession. The association has never had to cancel any event. The main source of revenue is festivals followed by memberships. Gradwohl also said that volunteers are very important, saving the OTCA $80,841 in wages.
Gradwohl said that the association receives grants and assistance from the City of Lansing. The OTCA uses grants to maintain the community’s beauty.
Gradwohl said that the OTCA has installed benches, trees and painted murals on the sides of buildings. However, a block away from the OTCA, a decaying mural can be seen on the wall of a building.
David Gregware, manager of Tallulah’s Folly and board member of the OTCA, said the association receives most of its money from festivals and memberships. The annual report declares that events like Oktoberfest, and the Festival of the Moon and Sun gave the association about $208,000. Memberships meant $17,000 in revenue.
Gregware said that most businesses in Old Town have memberships. Benefits of membership include voting rights at annual meetings and eligibility for OTCA grants. The OTCA currently has 120 members. The association helps businesses to network, said Gregware.
The OTCA also gains money through sponsors and advertisements. Some Old Town businesses help the OTCA with their services. Message Makers, a video production company located in front of the association, has provided staging and equipment assistance for festivals according to senior editor, Tina Ray.
In 2013, the OTCA has planned several festivals and events for 2013. These events include the Festival of the Moon, Festival of the Sun, Old Town Oktoberfest and Old Town Scrapfest.
“We’ve had rough times but we’ve always pushed through,” Gradwohl said.