The Mercer Area Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday night took one of the first steps in working toward their goals to turn the borough into the next “Boomtown,” and their Greenville counterparts are helping lead them in the right direction.
“Mercer is an area that has potential to grow and has a lot to offer,” Mercer Chamber President Shane Nugent said to a group gathered in Mercer Area Library.
And following his father’s advice, he said Mercer wants to entice new companies and doesn’t want to become stagnant and die, and the Boomtown concept is the answer.
It stems from Jack Schultz’s book “Boomtown USA: The 7è Keys to Big Success in Small Towns,” which Mercer Chamber learned about from Greenville Area Chamber of Commerce.
The Greenville area has had success with Boomtown since its chamber followed Schultz’s “keys” about four years ago, which involved setting visions, goals and projects.
Several people who were instrumental in Greenville’s Boomtown process, which is ongoing, led Wednesday’s meeting: Fred Kiser, community liaison for the Greenville Chamber; Rita Clemente, director of colony living and community outreach at St. Paul’s in West Salem Township; James Rust, Greenville Chamber director and marketing director at The Record-Argus, Greenville; and Daniel P. Wallace, Mercer County Common Pleas Court Judge.
“You’re doing exactly what we did,” Rust said of the Mercer Chamber members deciding to come together and read the book before asking the community to get involved with specific aspects of Boomtown.
The Greenville Chamber met twice a day – in the afternoon and evening – on five different days to review Schultz’s keys, and the meetings were open to the public, Rust said, adding they used the Internet, “e-mail blasts” and local newspapers to help create interest.
“Their input was vital,” Rust said of encouraging the public to attend, adding he chaired the Boomtown marketing committee.
As word continues to spread, more people will become curious about Boomtown, and sometimes all it takes is a “core group,” maybe even those who showed up Wednesday night, Clemente said.
Greenville folks wanted to get involved because it was all about bettering “their town,” and even people from the Shenango Valley participated, Rust said.
“There’s no such thing as a bad idea,” he said of the brainstorming sessions, which were broken down into small groups.
Wallace is credited with sparking everyone’s interest in Schultz’s book, which he found online. He admits it’s “nothing magical” but it’s based on Schultz’s travels and observations, and the keys are common sense.
“This book has a lot of potential,” Wallace said.
The book helped Greenville’s Boomtown group identify its three themes: tourism, a great place to call home and business opportunity.
After the initial Boomtown process ended, many individuals and organizations came together to create a brochure touting the area’s numerous attractions and features, plus the logo and slogan – “A community for all seasons” – the Boomtown group chose, Kiser said.
The Greenville Boomtown group continues to celebrate and recognize successes along the way, no matter how big or small, Clemente said.
“That was fuel that kept us going,” she said.
It also helps to make a list of positive things a town has to offer and that can include clubs, groups, organizations and projects, Rust said, adding it’s a good tool to have to use with any naysayers.
Get the younger generation involved, Kiser advised, with Rust adding that social media is bigger now and can be used to the Mercer Chamber’s advantage.
When asked for an example of a successful project tied to the Greenville Boomtown group, Rust described the colorful mural that graces the side of one of the buildings downtown, an effort spearheaded by the Women’s Action Group.
“It was that excitement. You knew you were part of something,” he said.
Mercer Councilman Frank Curl had some concerns about how Mercer “is kind of a geographical oddity.”
It’s the county seat and is close to the interstate and outlet mall, but with a population of 2,000, the borough doesn’t meet requirements for many grants.
The borough recently received a $6 million grant for its sewage- treatment plant, but the same number of tools aren’t available for other projects when Mercer is compared to larger towns, he said.
Mercer is a unique and valuable location and you have to look at what you appreciate most, Clemente said.
“Until you do that, grants are insignificant,” she said.
Curl would also like to see new faces at various events, like the Mercer Main Street Farmers’ Market he helps run summer through fall on courthouse square.
The group went on to list other events and projects unique to Mercer that has it off to a good start – the upcoming bicentennial celebration for the borough, Mercer Memorial Day 500, Victorian Days, the Friday night concerts on the courthouse lawn and the Christmas tree that Curl brings from his farm for everyone to help decorate on courthouse square.
“It’s always gonna be a core group that moves anything forward,” Nugent said.
Mercer County Commissioner Matt McConnell urged Mercer Chamber to copy Greenville’s process, but not its project, and to look at Boomtown with all of Mercer County in mind.
To join the Boomtown group, call 724-662-4185 or e-mail email@example.com