CONWAY, SC (WMBF) - Conway paid the nonprofit organization Downtown Alive $121,000 in 2018, according to the city’s check register.
The funds are drawn from the city’s hospitality and accommodations tax fund.
Downtown Alive was founded in 1986 to revitalize downtown Conway by drawing businesses and visitors to the area.
The organization received around 9 percent of Conway’s hospitality tax revenue and 15 percent of its accommodation tax revenue, according to the city’s 2018-2019 budget.
Part of the funding is for Downtown Alive to run Conway’s visitor’s center.
Hillary Howard, the organization’s executive director, said Downtown Alive took over the staffing and management of the center in 2012.
“When we took over a contract for services to operate the visitors center, the city was actually spending more money than they currently do for us to operate the visitors center, so it ended up being a savings for the city,” Howard said.
Currently, she said the center helps everyone from daily visitors to prospective residents.
“We even answer questions on peoples’ water and garbage pickup for the city, so we really try to be a clearing house for all questions that people might have about the city of Conway,” Howard said.
Around $4,000 is used to fund downtown events, according to the city’s budget.
Throughout the year, the organization organizes multiple events such as CanAm Days, Wine Around and Hometown Hero Day.
Howard explained another part of the organization’s contract with Conway is to fund marketing and promotion efforts.
She added that while the Conway Chamber of Commerce also works to promote the city, Downtown Alive focuses specifically on the historic district.
“We try to come at promotions of the downtown at multiple different angles that are family friendly and appeal to lots of different folks that are living and working in our downtown,” Howard said.
Beyond its contact with the city, Downtown Alive also applies for additional funding from Conway and puts on different fundraising events.
Howard said some of the funding is used to offer grants to downtown business owners.
“One of the main things with keeping people moving about our downtown and coming into our downtown is keeping our businesses full, our buildings rented,” Howard said.
She explained this year the organization started a rental assistance grant program that helps new business owners with part of their rent for their first year of operation.
Howard said this program helps owners during some of their more challenging months so they can continue to operate for longer within the city.