Visitors Learn About Downtown Auburn

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Article by Dave Kurtz | KPC News | February 2, 2018 
AUBURN — Downtown Auburn is the cusp of something great, coffee shop owner Jeremiah Otis told an audience Friday.
The recent renovation of downtown buildings and this summer’s 6th and Main streetscape improvements have Otis excited.
“I think we’re on the verge of some incredible success as a community, beyond everything we’ve ever seen or imagined,” he said.
Otis joined a panel at the Auburn Community Exchange in the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum.
Some 90 people — most visiting from elsewhere in Indiana — attended the event to learn about downtown development. The Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs sponsored the forum along with the Auburn Main Street organization and the Downtown Auburn Business Association.
After the seminar, participants toured downtown to see what they’d been hearing about. The event was timed in conjunction with Friday’s ice sculpture exhibit.
At the museum, panel of eight local leaders talked about the strengths of downtown Auburn and the challenges facing it.
“All the investment that’s happening is amazing, and it’s inspiring,” said Chris Schweitzer, superintendent of the Auburn Electric utility and Auburn Essential Services broadband utility. He said he sees great potential for Auburn in the next five years.
“The vibrance of downtown reflects the health of the whole community,” said Anton King, executive director for the DeKalb County Economic Development Partnership.
Several panel members said a strong downtown helps attract new employees and then retain them.
“We do need to look at retaining our young people here,” said Teresa Harmeyer, executive director of the DeKalb Chamber Partnership.

“When we bring in recruits and have business meetings, it’s nice to have a vibrant downtown. … This is where we bring our prospects,” said Tasha Eicher, interim CEO of DeKalb Health.
“Employees need something to do after working hours,” said state Rep. Ben Smaltz, R-Auburn, who owns Taylor Rental Party Plus.
“We do special events,” in his business, Smaltz said, “and Auburn likes to party, and it’s really fun.”
“I want things to do. I don’t just want to go to work and go home,” Otis said. “I need a place where I can really spend time connecting with people. You’re most likely to find that in the downtown, in the hearts of communities.”
Chris Straw, owner of Team Quality Services, said special events are important to the city’s appeal.
“After work tonight, we’re going downtown and we’re going to see the ice sculptures, and we’re going to have fun, darn it!” he said about his company’s staff.
Out-of-town visitors to his company have enjoyed events such as the DeKalb County Free Fall Fair, Straw added.
“Every time you have an event, you basically are creating a downtown advertising campaign,” said Jason Sweitzer, president of Tempus Technologies.
Sweitzer said success for downtown requires “a creative vision with a tenacious, unrelenting pursuit of that vision.”
Auburn’s downtown business owners have “tenacity in spades,” Otis responded.
As a key to Auburn’s success, Straw said, “We’re not afraid to take risks and try new things. … No idea is too crazy. I think that’s really unique for a community.” 

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