A loyalty program and a venue for brainstorming ideas to make downtown Pasco a vibrant destination are two new strategies to draw businesses to the downtown core.
The Downtown Pasco Development Authority hopes its Passport to Pasco loyalty program and interactive Imagination Station will recruit volunteers and donors to the nonprofit.
Guests at a kickoff event received "passport" booklets, which can be stamped each time a person volunteers or attends an event, such as the farmers market, Fiery Foods Festival or Cinco de Mayo Parade.
Development authority Executive Director Michael Goins said his organization plans to distribute more of the booklets, and reward people who rack up stamps with prizes ranging from thank you letters to visits with state leaders.
The 70 invited guests at the Lewis Street post office for the event also were asked to share their vision for downtown on a banner called Imagination Station.
Goins said the development authority plans to take that concept to its website, where users can post videos and blog entries with their ideas for downtown. He hopes to have that up and running next month.
The interactive program seeks to get young people interested in volunteering downtown, and they will hopefully get their parents and grandparents involved, Goins said.
"Right now there's not a lot of connection to downtown Pasco, and we need to build that sense of neighborhood and community," he said.
The downtown area should try to become a strong and vibrant Hispanic culture center, Don Porter, director emeritus of the Tri-City Union Gospel Mission, wrote on the banner.
"They are the majority population here," he told the Herald. "The other thing is they're business starters. They live on a shoestring."
Shannon Martinez wrote that it is important for people from west Pasco to realize that they have a downtown, making the community more united.
"I would really like it to thrive and grow," she said. "Not to be forgotten."
Goins talked about growing up near Philadelphia and how the city was revitalized after it faced high crime and business closings. He said downtown Pasco's challenges are not as severe, but the area needs to be perceived better.
"It's easy to talk about the challenges we have," he said. "We don't talk about the good things we have in Pasco."
The Pasco Farmers Market and Specialty Kitchen are the prime downtown assets, but the area needs more support, Goins said.
The gospel mission shelter, bus depot and a motel with drug and prostitution problems bring a large transient population downtown, farmers marker manager Mike Somerville said. The downtown area also has issues with trash not being cleaned up because cars parked overnight block street sweepers.
He sees the market drawing thousands of people on warm weekends as a positive start. But more people need to know about the good things in downtown Pasco before the Road 68 area becomes downtown, he said.
"I have met people here that have never even been to the market," Somerville said. "I think Michael Goins has done a phenomenal job on educating people on what downtown Pasco can become."
The Downtown Pasco Authority is online at www.downtownpasco.com, on Facebook and on Twitter @pascorocks.
-- Geoff Folsom: 509-582-1543; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @GeoffFolsom