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After Two Decades, DIB Hopes to Improve Downtown with New Strategy

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The 2019 fiscal year began Monday, but this year will be different for Panama City’s Downtown Improvement Board. The board is completely changing it’s focus from events to other priorities. 

In it’s 20-year existence, some still argue that the role of the DIB has never been clear.

“The role of the DIB changes drastically depending on who you ask,” Daric Freeman, the executive director, said.

“I should think it would be to improve the economy and get people shopping down here,” one local resident said. The board is still struggling with an identity crisis.

“They’ve built up a pretty bad reputation. So even the very best ideas, if coming from the DIB, there’s no support for it,” Sarah O’Brennan, the owner of the Moon Lodge Cafe and former DIB board member, said.

“Sometimes i think there’s a little bit of a lack of a two, three, or five year plan going on. That’s what i’d like to see,” Greg Snow, owner of the Little Mustard Seed, said. The board is changing it’s focus.

“Everything we’ve done before, let’s not do it again just cause we’ve always done it that way,” Freeman said. Instead of putting on events, they’ll put more money into beautification and marketing.

Freeman said they’ll advertise in movie theaters, on people’s smart phone apps, and more.

“I think that’s a brilliant idea because there’s a group of local merchants that have taken over the role of putting on events and they’ve done a great job with it,” O’Brennan said.

The budget also allots money to help those considering moving downtown by paying their impact fees. 

“Through conversations with the board members, city commissioners and the mayor, we’re really strategizing and looking at things differently,” Freeman said.

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