The recent guest editorial in the Beacon (Feb. 20: “Whitefish’s Identity Crisis”) accuses Heart of Whitefish of being anti-business. The letter was both inaccurate and false. Many readers are familiar with our organization and the good work that we do, but for those of you who are not, please take a minute to read this letter and get the facts.
Heart of Whitefish is a nonprofit, volunteer organization dedicated to advocating for the economic health and vitality of downtown Whitefish by sponsoring projects and supporting planning policies which strengthen small business in Whitefish.
Past and current Heart of Whitefish board members count their time living and running businesses in the community in decades, some in generations. This year marks Heart of Whitefish’s 10th anniversary. It was formed to initiate the process of a Downtown Master Plan. These are some of the things that we do:
Heart of Whitefish sponsors the Downtown Farmers Market, which brings thousands of locals and visitors together in a weekly celebration of community and local commerce. Heart of Whitefish volunteers commit thousands of man-hours each summer to make this a unique and special event.
Heart of Whitefish members fund the planting and maintenance of the flower and evergreen barrels that decorate street corners throughout downtown. In addition, Heart of Whitefish members purchased the hanging flower baskets, which hang on the new street lights throughout downtown.
Heart of Whitefish was a co-sponsor with the City of Whitefish of the Downtown Master Plan. Heart of Whitefish members contributed $21,000 toward the development of the Master Plan. Additionally, the Heart of Whitefish board and many members participated in countless hours of public meetings to craft the plan. Board members also worked tirelessly to make sure the Plan is executed as designed. As a result of this commitment, downtown Whitefish looks better than ever, and business is healthy.
Downtown street reconstruction was completed during the recession, which provided valuable local construction jobs and positioned Whitefish for unprecedented private investment. Since the beginning of the Central Avenue reconstruction, downtown Whitefish has reaped over $8 million dollars of private investment in new construction and remodels. Whitefish Resort Tax collections are also at record levels. Look elsewhere in the valley and you will see that this is not a common trend.
Heart of Whitefish also played an active role with the City to secure a $3.5 million Federal TIGER grant, which enabled the City to reconstruct the three blocks of Second Street/ Highway 93, to complete the entire downtown reconstruction. The City received this grant, one of only 51 communities nationwide, out of 1,400 applicants, because Whitefish had a shovel-ready project pulled straight out of our Master Plan.
More recently, Heart of Whitefish, in collaboration with the Convention and Visitor Bureau and the Whitefish Mountain Resort, raised $42,000 – almost 25 percent of the total project cost – to commission and deliver the design for a “Wayfinding” signage system to the city. These signs will provide a comprehensive and very attractive network of signs to direct residents and visitors to our many fabulous cultural and recreational amenities. Helping customers to feel comfortable navigating our community and to discover our amenities is good business.
Heart of Whitefish is also advocating for keeping the new City Hall building downtown on the current location. A downtown City Hall makes sense: it is fiscally conservative because the City already owns the property, and good for business because the more diverse the economic base of our downtown, the better.
The Heart of Whitefish has done good work for our town. It has made Whitefish an even better place to build a business and raise a family. Residents work hard and play hard here – all year round. We will continue to support planning policies that enhance Whitefish’s diverse economy and keep it vibrant and healthy. We do not, and will not support policies that re-make Whitefish into just another “resort/retirement” community.
Heart of Whitefish Board of Directors
Ian Collins, Chair
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