In downtown York, community becomes part of business model
Part of fostering community comes from building an identity. Gavin Advertising came up with a 1960s-style logo for WeCo, or “West of Codorus,” a downtown York neighborhood.
The company's involvement makes sense: Gavin Advertising moved to 328 W. Market St. this week. The company is also donating about $15,000 in in-kind service to help build the WeCo brand, created by a group of business owners and residents in the four-square-block neighborhood and backed by Downtown Inc.
But Gavin President Mandy Arnold and her husband, Sean, are being more proactive. They have been hosting parties for potential developers, investors, merchants and homeowners at their office and home, made up of two buildings on the site totaling about 24,000 square feet.
In the coming months, they'll be hosting “meet the neighbors” parties at the property, for area real estate agents and potential homebuyers, as well as a collaborative business recruitment event with Downtown Inc.
The goal is to make WeCo (pronounced WEE-koh) the newest cool community in York.
“We know that half the battle is getting the word out and getting people to visit WeCo,” Mandy Arnold said. “The excitement and energy is capturing a lot of attention for the area.”
The WeCo branding is meant to designate the neighborhood, much like the Market District or Royal Square in York, said Doug Knight, Downtown Inc marketing director.
“It's going to start coming into the vernacular,” he said. “The neighborhood has always been in the (business improvement district) and the businesses have participated in Downtown Inc events like First Friday.
“But this is a way to build a brand.”
Founded in 2011, Gavin has a dozen employees and has operated on the third floor of 110 N. George St., part of what Downtown Inc considers the Market District inside the 26-block business improvement district.
Arnold and her husband are “city people,” having grown up in Baltimore and lived in New York.
“We saw first-hand how collaborative efforts and business improvement districts fostered thriving urban communities and even created investment opportunities for small businesses such as ourselves,” she said.
That sense of community, coupled with the natural synergy of urban neighborhoods, became part of Gavin's business model.
“As a creative business that is growing quickly and servicing clients locally and across the U.S., we are focused on attracting the best of the best talent from all over, which means we need to support fostering a thriving place that our employees, and future employees, want to be part of, even call home,” Arnold said.
The company wants to build on its success as it moves to the new location this year. Companywide, 2013 revenue was about $600,000, according to Business Journal records. That's a nearly 67 percent jump over 2012.
So when Gavin agreed to donate resources, including an internship program with the sole task of marketing WeCo, Downtown Inc and the dozen members of the neighborhood group welcomed the gesture.
“It's great for us having a partner in Gavin,” Knight said. “(Mandy) sees the larger community as a function of how she does business.”
Getting the word out is key, said Josh Hankey, a developer behind the Royal Square neighborhood.
Hankey, who said the idea for the name “Royal Square” was born out of a conversation he had with Mandy Arnold over a beer one day, said he and his business partners bought up contiguous properties, first in the 100 block of East King Street, and renovated them starting in 2008.
Since then, the neighborhood bounded by King, Queen, Princess and Duke streets has attracted artists and like-minded individuals so well that people are knocking on his door to move in, Hankey said.
“A lot of the reason we've been able to fill the spaces is, there's really ... a community where everyone has the culture of helping each other and working with each other on things to ensure each other's success.”
As part of its donation of $15,000 in services, Gavin Advertising is dedicating an intern to handle marketing of the WeCo, or West of Codorus, neighborhood.
An intern is lined up to start this fall, said Gavin President Mandy Arnold.
“Each internship lasts a semester, but interns may stay on longer than a single semester or term on a case-by-case basis,” Arnold said. “The goal is to have at least one intern each semester who will be managed by a senior team with specific goals for the marketing of the business district each term.”
WeCo on the map
This map of downtown York shows the total business improvement district, in gray, as defined by Downtown Inc.
The area in red is the WeCo, or West of Codorus, neighborhood, which generally includes the area bounded by West Market, Penn and West Philadelphia streets and the Codorus Creek.
The area in purple is the Market District, the section of downtown considered home to many retail operations generally along Market, Philadelphia and North George streets.
The area in green is Royal Square, considered the arts section, bounded roughly by East King, South Queen, East Princess and South Duke streets.