The new DDA Executive Director wants to build connections with all of Bay City’s business districts

As the new Executive Director of Bay City’s Downtown Management Board and Downtown Development Authority, Marjo Jaroch sees nothing but growth in the future. Prior to this position, Jaroch was the Community Manager at City Office, a co-working space at 401 Center Ave. You can find Jaroch’s new office at 901 Saginaw St.

Less than a month into her new job, Jaroch sat down with Route Bay City to talk about her new position and what she hopes to accomplish.

Q. Just what is the new job?

A. I’m now the Executive Director for the Downtown Management Board and the Downtown Development Authority. The Downtown Management Board was put into place to guide and bring in resources for Downtown Bay City. That includes events like Downtown Wine Walk and Feet on the Street, which were organized through the Downtown Management Board. The Downtown Development Authority is really focused on infrastructure – so right now we’re working on the new light poles, putting in the fireplaces, making sure that the sidewalks aren’t tripping hazards, and things like that. My role as the Executive Director is to assist both boards in their daily operations, so I tell people my job is everything from events to infrastructure. Think of Downtown Development as parks and benches, lighting, parking structures, and the fireplaces that are going in. Downtown Management’s intention is to bring people to our downtown to shop.

Q. With two separate boards doing two different things, how will you manage both hats?

A. It’s uncommon to have a downtown management board, and it’s very common to have a downtown development authority, so the intention that was put upon me was how can we bring those boards together and have them work cohesively. Hopefully, I’ll be able to say I’m Executive Director for Downtown Bay City, or Downtown Activities, and it would be those two boards. The money that comes in and is collected is dealt with in two different ways, so that’s the main difference.

Q. How does managing City Office translate to your new job?

A. I’m weirdly qualified for this role. As a member of the board, we were writing out what the description of the job might be. The executive director doesn’t have a guide of what the job might be. I helped bring in job descriptions from co-working spaces, this is so similar. It was really through that process. Managing a co-working space, I was required to wear so many different hats, and it’s very similar to that, but along with that I’ll also be doing some grant writing, and other higher-level things – less making coffee.

Q. What are your expectations for your new job?

A. Current expectations are to maintain and grow current events, to organize and solidify Feet on the Streets. Eats on the Street was an idea I had last year, but it was created too late in the game, so hopefully this year we’ll have an Eats on the Street day or two and then a Beats on the Street  with music downtown.

I’m hoping to take events that are currently happening and expand them.

Then also looking into the project I’m most excited about – Community Heart and Soul. It was started by the Vermont Country Store in Vermont. They offer downtowns a matching grant of $10,000 over the course of two years that brings community driven events downtown simply by asking every single person what they like about downtown and what they think downtown means.

By doing that, you have a quantitative survey and understanding of what’s going on and can make decisions about that space. That effort would involve getting ideas from literally everybody in your area.

Another project that I like is an expansion into our other districts. A unification of Midland Street and downtown, Columbus and downtown, Johnson, and also in our neighborhoods. I’d like to throw a neighborhood block party and start bringing those activities to our community again. If they can’t come to us, we can come to them.

The easy way to describe the downtown district is from the one ways to First Street and then from Water Street to Madison Avenue. The DDA guidelines are a little bit farther out than that, but that’s the easy understanding. That said, we’re a small community, so all of us succeeding is all of us succeeding.

Q. What do you bring to the table that someone else may not?

A. I can see how things can be. I’m first a community manager. I’m from a space where I believe people are better together – period. In order to feel like a whole person, you need to feel like you’re part of a community, and so how can you create these little micro communities? They’re critical.

I’m a connector. I’m a person that people feel comfortable talking to from the beginning. I think my demeanor allows people to feel open and trusting. That’s what’s missing in downtown. We don’t have the communication between districts. I talk to people and I listen to people, more importantly. I’ve spent years with compassionate leadership, and understanding how to lead with authenticity. This position lets me step into a role where I can actually be that person. What I bring to the table is communication.

Enjoy this story? Sign up for free solutions-based reporting in your inbox each week.