A few days ago I sat down for lunch with Jared Morgan, the new executive director of Downtown Provo, Incorporated. The organization is more or less the latest incarnation of the Downtown Alliance. You can read more about it here, but it’s worth mentioning that Downtown Provo, Inc. is much more than a bunch of businesses getting together to do who-knows-what (that was my impression of the Downtown Alliance). The city also has never really had someone specifically doing Jared’s job — a kind of targeted, creative marketing and development, all rolled into one position — in the past.
As Jared and I ate naan and chicken tikka masala at India Palace, he explained to me that the organization is charged with marketing downtown to both consumers and businesses. He talked about how there are specific plans to put up new banners, bring in new retailers, and bridge the notorious gap between downtown and Provo’s student population. Jared’s organization also is significant because it is situated between government and private business in a way that will make it uniquely capable of drawing businesses to the area.
The objectives Jared talked about are fairly universal across the city — revitalize downtown, help Provo capitalize on its current excitement — but I’m extremely optimistic because of Downtown Provo, Inc. As I understand it, the organization has more funding, organization, and vision than previous efforts to help downtown Provo. At one point during lunch, Jared was describing both his and the city’s willingness to try (potentially radical) new ideas and he used the phrase “whatever works” — a phrase I think I’ve used somewhere here on this blog.
I think Jared and I also agree on a fundamental attitude about Provo: that it is in the midst of a transformative lifestyle change. Provo is already a wonderful place and I don’t think I’d be writing this blog if it wasn’t. But there is a lot of room for improvement. Significantly, that improvement looks like it’s actually going to happen. Downtown actually is getting better. The city really will be more walkable. There is a palpable feeling — which I sensed while talking to Jared as well as when I’ve talked to people like Mayor Curtis — that this is possibly the best time to be living in Provo, ever.
I also wanted to mention a little bit more about Jared himself, because one person in the right position can make a huge difference. (I’d say that Mayor Curtis and velour owner Corey Fox are both prime examples of this fact.) Jared is new to Provo. He’s only been working in the city for a little over a month, but in that time he’s eaten at practically every worth while restaurant, gone on a ride along with the police, and generally crammed years worth of city experience into a short amount of time.
Though my own love for Provo was something of a slow burn, Jared is already imbedded in the community and immediately struck me as passionate, knowledgeable, and capable. By the time we were done with lunch I was even more excited for Provo’s future.