Ferndale released a ray of light recently in announcing its better-than-expected growth rate.
Last year, 26 businesses opened their doors which is a net gain of 233 percent according to the Ferndale Downtown District Authority.
290 jobs were created.
“These jobs are opportunities for our residents to round out the local economy and support it by shopping and dining here. Jobs generate jobs, the formula works and Downtown Ferndale is the proof,” said Cristina Sheppard-Decius, executive director of the DDA.
The investments were large.
Leading the charts is the private/public investment figure of $20.1 million, a 299 percent increase from 2007. Significant contributors are the $9 million generated by the Lofts on 9 condominium project and $5 million from the Foley Mansfield Law firm rehabilitation of the historical library.
“The Lofts on 9 and the Foley Mansfield projects were certainly major, but it is even more important that our totals are based on decisions made by many different investors,” Sheppard-Decius said. “We were not reliant on, nor are we depending on, one single project or one single investor, and that is true for the year ahead. We already have projects in the pipeline or ongoing for 2009.”
What's the secret to Ferndale's success?
“I am asked that question all the time,” City Manager Bob Bruner said. “If I had the exact formula I could write a book. But, a key factor is that this a very open-minded community. It's inclusive. People here are very active, they don't just move here and sit back and do nothing.”
Bruner said there is high energy and participation from the residents who organize community events, work to make sure the city is diverse and accepting to all people, and strongly support their local businesses.
Businesses want to be part of the city.
Valerie Traylor, who owns Thicke Madam Boutique on Nine Mile Road, agreed. Thicke Madam was located in Oak Park for nearly two years, but Traylor and her business partner/daughter Shannon Eaddy decided that Ferndale's walking community would be a strong asset for the store.
“We have more visibility.”
Thicke Madam is a clothing boutique with clothes that are “jazzy and classy for plus sizes,” Traylor said.
Beverly Banton, owner of Unique Expressions on Woodward, said she decided to relocate her successful Southfield business to Ferndale because of the vibe that residents and the city have created. Unique Expressions carries branded merchandise for businesses.
“I needed a bigger building for my business and this one is beautiful,” Banton said. “Ferndale has blossomed in the past two years and the city itself has created an atmosphere that makes you want to be a part of it.”
Ferndale residents invest in their city. In the 90s they approved $60 million for infrastructure improvements, Bruner said. Nearly every street in the city has been resurfaced or rebuilt within the past 10 years.
“I tell other cities ... if you can figure out a way to attract people with that energy and openness — and a willingness to invest in their community — it's the secret sauce.”
Good bones help too.
In 1927 (when Ferndale began), it was created as a compact walking city with a traditional downtown and tree-lined streets.
“I think that compact community is back in style. So we began with strong bones,” Bruner said.
Sheppard-Decuius said the city has many reasons to be proud.
“We have exceeded expectations at every indicator,” she said.
The 2008 statistics indicate phenomenal growth and reinvestment in all segments of the market, from housing to retail to restaurant to business.
“Our programs are working, our downtown is thriving, we remain strong .”
Other new investments include 28 building rehabilitations such as the new billiard hall The Loving Touch and flower shop Blumz by JR Designs. Go Comedy! opened last year too, adding yet another entertainment destination to the city.