A Main Street leader expands her horizons
September 2, 2016
The Park City Chamber/Bureau is bringing in a little bit of expertise from Main Street.
The organization announced last week that it has hired Alison Kuhlow as its vice president of member services. Kuhlow will be leaving her post as executive director of the Historic Park City Alliance, a group that advocates for small businesses along Main Street. She will also be leaving the Prospector Square Property Owners Association, where she was also the executive director.
Kuhlow has worked with businesses in various capacities since she came to Park City nearly 20 years ago, including as a city planner and events manager at City Hall. But her work has nearly always been limited to the borders of the town. Her responsibilities with the Chamber/Bureau, which will be, in part, to ensure the organization is meeting the needs of its members, will allow her to help shape the rest of the community, too, stretching from the Snyderville Basin to the county's east side.
"I thought it would be a great new challenge, not only to expand my work with what I've been doing for the HPCA, making that vibrant community, but looking at Summit County as a whole," she said. "I want to get to know other areas of the community and find out how we can best benefit that membership within the Chamber."
Kuhlow shepherded the Historic Park City Alliance during a time of change along Main Street. In her six years with the organization, she said, she aimed to unite business owners in the area under one voice to lobby more effectively for their needs. One thing business leaders rallied around was the passage of an increase to the resort sales tax that has generated millions of dollars for capital improvements in the area, she said.
"That's probably what I'm most proud of," she said.
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She leaves the Alliance as more change is on the horizon. And her experience with the organization gives her a unique perspective on what Park City's historic district might look like in five or 10 years. She said the city's new parking plan should bring noticeable changes in the short-term, but the issue that will define the area in the coming decade is whether mom-and-pop shops will be able to remain on Main Street in an era of rapidly rising rent costs.
"We're not necessarily looking to have these flagship stores of these major brands all over," she said. "We want it to feel unique and to feel like Park City. Main Street is a local business district within a small town. We are an active Main Street, and I really would love to see the community embrace that more."
City leaders and economic factors will go a long way to shaping Main Street's future, she said. But residents will also prove critical. The best way to ensure small, unique retailers will remain in the area for years to come is for Parkites to support them — something that, in her view, doesn't always happen.
"If the locals don't come and visit Main Street, then it's not going to have anything for them," she said. "It's all based on who the customers are and who's showing up. I would really like to see people wrap their arms around the 'buy local' campaign."
Kuhlow is eager to bring that forward-looking view to her new role in the Chamber/Bureau. Bill Malone, president and CEO of the organization, said her outlook and experience in helping solve important issues affecting businesses are what made her stand out from eight other candidates he interviewed for her position. Businesses, he said, will benefit from her advocating for them.
"I've had the pleasure of watching Alison work for a number of years, going back to City Hall," he said. "I always admired her work. She's very intuitive, understands what businesses look for from organizations. It's going to be a very good transition from her current work to the work that we do."
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