What's all the hype about Wayland?

A wireless speaker system to pipe music downtown, a new welcome sign near the central business district, and a team of local social media influencers are all hyping Wayland -- thanks to a $25,000 state grant.

Wayland, a city of 4,440 residents situated along U.S. 131 between Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo, was awarded a Main Street Vibrancy grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.

“The MEDC Vibrancy program is essential for Wayland and the continued growth of our new branding and confidence,” says Holli McPherson, executive director of Downtown Wayland. “Without the grant dollars, larger projects which make the biggest visual impact would not be possible for downtown Wayland. 

“I mean, for us it's huge,” she adds, by covering the total expense of projects such as the sign and the speakers “(that) we have wanted to do that weren't in the budget but need to be done.”

What’s happening: The Allegan County community has received a Vibrancy grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. The city has already started working to assemble a team of volunteers to help promote its downtown.

The grant will bolster the “hype team” by awarding gift vouchers to locals who are trained to use their own social media accounts to promote events in Wayland, McPherson says. 

Part of the streetscape of downtown Wayland.“The hype team was something we learned about at our national conference last year,” McPherson says. “You get a couple of volunteers — we have around seven— that go to events, or they do special days or nights and take photos and then post it on their social media. Each person gets around a $50 gift card to do this.”
“So, we are taking the taxpayer money and putting it back into the taxpayer’s pocket,” she adds.

The first Hype Team activity, a St. Patrick’s Day event billed as Everybody’s Irish Downtown Wayland, featured restaurant specials, vendors, food trucks and a shuttle to and from the nearby Gun Lake Casino.

That portion of the grant project is the least expensive. The big-ticket items are a $6,000 wireless sound system to be installed along posts at the downtown’s four corners and a new $17,000 state-of-the art electronic welcome sign.

The sign has been designed, and both of those projects are hoped to be in place by the end of summer, McPherson says.

The six speakers will be synced together and used for everything from sending Christmas music over downtown during the holidays to making announcements and playing music during any of the 17 events the MainStreet program has planned.

What they're saying: Denise Behm, executive director of the Wayland Area Chamber of Commerce, says receiving the Hometown Hype Grant will provide the Wayland Main Street Organization the opportunity “to highlight our amazing downtown’s economic vitality through the Hype Team, while adding vibrancy with the new downtown wireless speaker system. 

“With the new welcome signs that will be installed as you enter Wayland, people will be welcomed to our community — which is exactly what we want for both the residents and visitors,” Behm says. “We are so excited to see downtown Wayland, and community, continue to flourish with the help of this grant.”

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer: “Thriving, attractive downtowns are vital to creating unique places where people want to live, work, visit, and play. The Main Street Vibrancy grants recently awarded to nine downtowns across Michigan “will help these communities grow their economies, support local small businesses, and improve quality of life.” 

About the grant program: The Main Street Vibrancy Grant Program is intended to provide grants of $25,000 to Main Street communities for projects that enhance the vibrancy and economic vitality of downtowns. Projects could include pop-up shop programs, marketing or advertising campaigns, physical improvements such as new seating, seasonal infrastructure, signage, or art, and other transformative projects that help create a sense of place and a more vibrant community. 

Rosemary Parker has worked as a writer and editor for more than 40 years. She is a regular contributor to Rural Innovation Exchange, UPword, and other Issue Media Group publications. 
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