Alex Krogh-Grabbe, Executive Direct Amherst BID
The recently formed Amherst Business Improvement District now has an Executive Director, and he's a townie.
Alex Krogh-Grabbe, age 26, son of Nick Grabbe and Betsy Krogh, will assume full-time duties starting June 1st in an office located on the second floor above AJ Hastings. Krogh-Grabbe just acquired a Masters Degree in Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning from Tufts University where his final thesis compared Amherst's partnership with UMass on the ill fated Gateway Corridor Project to the more successful business collaboration of Storrs, Connecticut with UConn.
Although he has never run a small business, Alex points to his local upbringing and graduate training as his "most relevant experiences." But he does have promotional experience organizing contra dances. Krogh-Grabbe will answer to the BID Executive Committee, who have a wealth of business experience:Barry Roberts President, Jerry Jolly VP, Sharon Povenilli Treasurer and Tony Maroulis, Clerk
UMass and Amherst College are both involved with the Amherst BID and each institution has a member on the Board of Directors, but they are not financial contributors like the downtown businesses, which through a property tax surcharge collected by the town will contribute around $260,000 annually.
The Big 3--UMass, Amherst College, and Town Manager Musante--will sign a "Memorandum Of Understanding" with the BID outlining expected services, such as providing interns or helping with marketing.
The decimation of downtown businesses by malls--with plenty of free parking, common pooling of money for promotions/advertising and a diverse mix of offerings--stimulated the creation of BIDs. Northampton created theirs in 2009.
But Amherst is nothing if not a tough sell. Half the property in town is owned by tax exempt institutions. Of the half that are on the tax rolls, 90% are residential and only 10% commercial business. And any time a pro business zoning change comes before town meeting it fails to muster the required two-thirds vote.
So Alex Krogh-Grabbe will have an uphill battle for the duration of his service. A digital whiz kid with almost 1500 Facebook friends and over 100 Twitter followers, Krogh-Grabbe plans to overhaul the current BID website, as for many interested parties it will be the first thing they see.
And a truism of business is, "You only get on chance to make a good first impression."