She is one of the most amiable and interesting people I have ever met. Which explains why our “quick half-hour meeting” ended abruptly when we realized that nearly two hours had passed and we were both late for other meetings! Of course, I should have expected that. In my initial e-mail to her, I stated that I thought she would be the perfect subject for one of my columns on city people, events and projects. She responded with “I really hadn’t given it much thought, but you’re probably right-or need to fill the space!” Bingo on both counts!
So who is “she”? Kim Burner, the new City of Rifle Main Street Manager. You are likely pondering the obvious question: what’s a Main Street Manager? The Main Street program is a national program started in the 1980s to revitalize downtowns in an era where suburban sprawl was rampant. In Colorado, it is operated under DOLA, the Department of Local Affairs. According to their website, they “…help communities thrive by providing a customizable framework to focus efforts, energy, and resources to create a more vibrant community.” There are many levels within the Main Street Program. Having a paid manager is one piece that was needed to move Rifle up a level and increase access to DOLA grants. Rifle has dedicated all of its city limits as Main Street, not just the downtown core.
Rifle is somewhat unique when it comes to organizations involved in creating a flourishing downtown. There are four main groups: RREDC (Rifle Regional Economic Development Corporation), DDA (Downtown Development Association), VIF (Visitor Improvement Fund) and GRIT (Greater Rifle Improvement Team). Each has a slightly different focus and it’s Kim’s job to pull it all together and make sure there is no duplicity in their efforts while simultaneously ensuring that all bases are covered. She describes herself as the conduit between these groups. She helps connect the city with the businesses and the non-profits and is “the pipeline through which information flows”.
Another role of a Main Street Manager is that of a business liaison. A big part of her job is getting to know our local businesses and understand their challenges. She can connect struggling businesses to resources and provide marketing tips and techniques. Kim points out that getting businesses involved with city events provides the dual benefit of getting more customers in the door while helping to build the sales tax base.
Rifle has four signature events each year: The Rifle Rendezvous, Hometown Holidays, Western Adventure Weekend and the July 3rd celebration. Kim is a strong advocate of holding events which will “draw people into town and boost tourism dollars”. All four of the groups mentioned above have some hand in bringing these happenings to fruition. Kim’s extensive experience in marketing and consulting make her the perfect person to hone details and maximize marketing opportunities. She will also be in a position to evaluate after the fact and analyze what worked and what didn’t.
Many of you may recognize Kim Burner. She has lived in Colorado off and on since she was 6 months old and attended Roaring Fork High School for two years before graduating from Rifle. Her husband of 32 years, Robert Burner, works for the Eagle County Sheriff’s Department. They have two boys, Matthew and Joshua and five grandchildren.
Kim had been involved in the newspaper business for over 20 years beginning as a receptionist and working her way up to publisher. She “kind of fell into newspapers” while working at a printshop where she learned graphic design and realized that she needed a 9-5 job. As an avid photographer, she found the newspaper process similar to photography and quickly moved up the ranks.
“I was the youngest and only the second female publisher for Morris Communication in the mid-nineties when promoted to Publisher of the Eagle Valley Enterprise,” stated Burner.
Over the years, Kim has been a major force in newspapers all over the country. Rifle’s new Main Street Manager has had a hand in revamping papers in Idaho Springs, Kentucky, Idaho and Grand County. In Grand County, she created a daily newspaper in 2 ½ months after merging four weekly papers. The task entailed blending them into a corporate structure and taught her a lot about how to get community buy-in.
This experience will undoubtedly prove invaluable in her role as Main Street Manager. Years ago when she opened her own company, Business Images, she recognized that clients need basic business help. She had initially wanted it to be a marketing firm, but the focus shifted more toward consulting. Her new position requires all of those skills. Speaking to her reveals a strong understanding of all aspects of both from utilizing social media to maximizing the contributions of the organizations involved. Having been a member of the Rifle Chamber of Commerce (Your Chamber Serving the Colorado River Valley), she has a fantastic understanding of the city and its citizens.
“The question isn’t what my vision for Rifle is, but rather what does the community want area events to look like moving forward. The citizens make the town, it’s my job to give them an opportunity to voice their ideas.
Later this fall/early winter I’ll be conducting a series of community meetings to gather input from the public, various non-profit boards, and business owners on what they want to see in regards to events. This information will be used by the Greater Rifle Improvement Team (G.R.I.T) to create that vision. From the vision, we’ll work together to create a plan to bring the vision to reality. The future direction of events in Rifle will be the result of teamwork, not one person.”
As summed up by Nathan Lindquist, City of Rifle Planning Director, “We are excited to have Kim Burner on the team. She has great Main Street experience and is a superb member of the community”.
Rifle Rapport is a column featuring the people and projects of the City of Rifle. If you have suggestions for future articles, please contact Kathy Pototsky at 970-665-6420 or firstname.lastname@example.org.