Evart DDA signs new director

Weinberg plans to build relationships between board, business owners with potential programs

EVART – Al Weinberg is the founder of a business that specializes in helping organizations improve the face of their company. He uses humor and his strengths as a “maximizer” to facilitate programs that improve the front lines of a company.

“I get energized by taking something that’s good and making it great,” Weinberg said.

Starting next month, Weinberg will use his strengths in a new arena, when he works on improving the front lines of the City of Evart.

The Downtown Development Authority board selected Weinberg Thursday as the new Evart DDA director. After narrowing the search down to three strong candidates, the board chose Weinberg to replace former director Darcy Salinas who left to take a position as the director of the Big Rapids Downtown Business Association in August 2011.

“He is very enthusiastic. He is experienced in several aspects of the job regarding event planning,” said Alan Bengry, DDA board member. “He was the best fit as far as being able to hit the ground running.”

The search had been ongoing for seven months to find an individual to lead the community development efforts in the DDA district, which includes the immediate downtown area along U.S. 10 to Twin Creek.

The DDA also signed a monthly contract with Michigan Solutions, a team of economic development experts who will work with the DDA to bring businesses to Evart’s downtown, that will begin April 1. Weinberg’s one-year contract will begin April 9.

“I think the board did a good job keeping the ship afloat,” Bengry said. “Now we have people with knowledge and energy to help move us forward.”

Weinberg, 48, moved to Evart 21 years ago, where he now lives with his wife, Jenny, and their three children, AJ, Carly and Wil. He worked at SpringHill Camps for 17 years. The last three years he served as the camp’s program director before starting his own team-building company, Frontline Specialists, in 2007.

The company’s goal is to be a catalyst for success by innovating and orchestrating effective teams, programs and events. The name of the business comes from the focus on the display of service and attitude of the individuals who serve on the “front line” of the company.

No matter what the skill level of the owner or behind-the-scenes personnel is, the company as a whole is identified by those who interact with customers, such as a waitress at a restaurant or a secretary at an office, Weinberg said.

“That one person will define who you are as an organization to the world,” Weinberg said. “Your front line is your bottom line.”

Weinberg facilitated a customer service training in 2011 in conjunction with the Local Development Finance Authority.

Five local businesses attended the LDFA-sponsored training, which was put on in an effort to help make Evart one of the friendliest communities in the state.

“When you come into Evart and you see people walking on the sidewalks, people walking in and out of stores and if there’s a ton of stuff to do, that changes the front lines of Evart.”

Melora Theunick, LDFA director, said she expects Weinberg to do an excellent job in the position.

“He has so much heart for Evart and he can get people excited,” said Melora Theunick, LDFA Director. “He’s going to do great.”

When he takes the reigns on April 9, Weinberg will work part-time and continue his work with Frontline Specialists. Weinberg also will continue to facilitate Leadership Mecosta and the Osceola Leadership Summit, monthly programs designed to develop and enhance leadership skills.

Weinberg is excited to start work as the DDA director to build the community of Evart. His first goals on the job are to create positive working relationships with the DDA board, Michigan Solutions and local business owners, and begin a dialogue with each of them about positive or negative potential programs for the community.

“Figuring out what we’re not going to do is just as important as figuring out what we are going to do,” Weinberg said.

He is an advocate of creating fun solutions for change. He believes the investment that brings the largest return is often simply an investment of time and diligence to carry out a project.

“I think sometimes people forget how “fun” is a motivator and how “fun” doesn’t have to be expensive,” Weinberg said.

He points to one of his favorite websites, a yearly contest sponsored by Volkswagen, www.thefuntheory.com. The theory includes programs that motivate people to make good decisions by implementing something fun. Programs include painting stairs to look like piano keys to encourage mall goers to take the stairs instead of the escalator or rewarding drivers who don’t speed in an area where many speeding tickets are given.

Though he is full of ideas and excitement for his new position, applying for the job was not something he was initially interested in. Weinberg knew the former DDA director and said when she switched roles, he didn’t think about applying for her former position. After encouragement from others, and realizing how the position requirements fit with skills he had, Weinberg applied and plans to stay in the position as long as he feels called to it.

“I love my town. I love my community. I love living where I’m at. I think the downtown of Evart really is the front line of Evart,” Weinberg said.

He will work with Michigan Solutions to define possible projects and timelines and prepare for city summer programming.

“I think it’s going to be a positive impact with (Weinberg) and Michigan Solutions working together,” Bengry said. “I think this combination of folks will really get things done.”