By TRAVIS HANDY
The Greater Pulaski Alliance met in late February to continue discussing plans to restructure the organization and build it into a more viable and effective merchants’ association.
The organization’s name was mentioned again as the group convened Feb. 28 at Pulaski Train Depot for its first meeting since October. Town Manager John Hawley reiterated earlier statements that he and others believed the name “Greater Pulaski Alliance” is too ambiguous and does not convey the organization’s purpose. There still has been no name change, nor has the group compiled a list of possible names to choose from, although this topic has been repeatedly visited during past GPA meetings.
On the road to restructuring GPA, the organization must first re-instate its 501(c)3 status, which lapsed some time ago. Yolanda Hunter-Bulls, owner of Lis De La Valle said the process is not expected to be difficult and will only require some paperwork and payment of fees necessary to regain the non-profit status. It was decided the organization should be reinstated under the GPA name and an official name change will happen in the future.
Hunter-Bulls has filled the duties of the organization’s president in the absence of Shirley Bandy, who stepped into the leadership role when Sally Bush stepped down several years ago. Bandy has been absent from recent GPA activities due to illness and other circumstances.
There are a number of steps other than reinstating non-profit status facing the organization, but according to Hawley, the main thing is to make sure there are enough people interested in keeping a merchants’ organization together.
“We need to get back and become a viable organization as a group of merchants and interested citizens and whatever (we need) to do these things,” said Hawley. “If we’re going to do that, then the rest of these things will take care of themselves.”
Additional short-term goals for GPA include boosting membership, setting up a membership fee scale, finding someone to act as a director, installing officers and finding a “home office” for the organization. It was proposed that Barbi Tate, Community Relations Director for the town of Pulaski, would act as an interim director, although filling that role will likely top the group’s list of priorities moving forward.
As for a place GPA can call home, a few suggestions were thrown around, including the possibility of a space in the new Raymond F. Ratcliffe Memorial Transportation Museum, set to open this spring. That idea was briefly debated, although members voiced concerns that the individual chosen to direct the group may get lost in the shuffle of taking care of two different job functions. Another option for a home was a space`in Pulaski Senior Center, which met with agreement from the group.
“I think we do need that person,” said Judy Ison, who represents the Fine Arts Center for the New River Valley. “There needs to be a face—a director or whomever—there to answer the phone, to do the day-to-day operations and also someone who is professional … and able to work unsupervised, with direction. Someone who is able to put a professional face on the organization.”
Ison also suggested a good director would be able to raise enough money through the organization to pay their own salary, as has been the case in the past.
The director would work toward following some of the Virginia Main Street goals, trying to build up membership and promote the group through advertising for events and other occasions GPA sponsors or spearheads.
Hawley said at this time there is no way GPA can afford to hire a director, but once the organization is back on its feet, it will be possible to fill that role, potentially as an executive director.
Nick Glenn, representing Glenn Insurance Agency, suggested the possibility of bringing in an intern who is learning the trade. The problem an intern presents, according to some of those present, is that an intern would only be in the position for a limited time.
“Continuity seems to be the issue that has plagued (this organization),” said Barbi Tate. “So if you want to get a part-time person, I think you have to walk before you can run and we need to take baby steps before we take a giant leap. It starts with … all the businesses, the merchants, whomever, telling us what you want to see in the first year. Whether it’s three goals, ‘we want this, this and this, find someone to help…’ With an intern, unfortunately school is getting ready to let out. We need to hit the ground running.”
A subgroup was formed to begin preparing a work plan and setting goals to be presented to the group as a whole. Once a work plan is set, the group will develop a budget that will let them put their ideas into action.
Six people were put on the list to make up the subgroup. They include Mike McMillion, Pulaski Bikes LLC; Barbi Tate, town of Pulaski; Yolanda Hunter-Bulls, Lis De La Valle; Mark Bennett, Virginia Eagle Distributing Co.; Nick Glenn, Glenn Insurance, and Judy Ison, FACNRV.
Restructuring the organization will be GPA’s focus heading further into the year. The conversation will continue at the next scheduled meeting, 6:30 p.m. Thursday, March 14 at Pulaski County Library, 60 3rd St. NW, Pulaski. Any interested Pulaski merchants, business owners or citizens are encouraged to attend.