Dubuque Main Street director focused on supporting businesses, safety

Since taking on her new role, Danielle Jacobs has been busy.

Jacobs has been executive director of Dubuque Main Street for nearly 10 months, taking over the role in September following the departure of longtime executive director Dan LoBianco.

“Meeting everyone has been the focus,” Jacobs said of her time so far in the role. “It’s been more about learning about the businesses here, what their needs are. The difference between downtown Dubuque and so many other downtowns across America is they are so happy to be here. They love working here. They love having a business here, and they’re excited about the future.”

Jeff Vaassen, Dubuque Main Street board president, said Jacobs has been working hard at getting acclimated to the community and understanding all of the work the organization does for the downtown community.

“Dubuque Main Street is relatively underrated in our community for what we provide in terms of service,” he said. “We’re not doing it just on Main Street. Our downtown district is almost the entire downtown. I like to say it’s bridge to bridge and bluff to river.”

Jacobs has been working on creating committees for five of the downtown’s 10 districts to further identify needs of business owners and the look of each district. Active committees have already been formed for Cable Car Square, Millwork District and Central Avenue. Jacobs said she is working on committees for both Upper Main and Lower Main.

“I think coming up with their own identity is going to be really important in the future,” Jacobs said. “The look and feel of each district is really different, and I think that’s a wonderful thing.”

This summer, Dubuque Main Street also launched a micro-business recruitment program that aims to help new business owners be successful and to fill downtown storefronts.

“Our number-one goal is for them to be successful long-term,” Jacobs said. “We are that support system for them to guide them in the right direction. I’ve been meeting with about one entrepreneur a week since it launched.”

Vaassen also stressed the importance of helping business owners be successful and connected to resources they need.

“It’s important for the vitality of Dubuque and the economy of Dubuque,” he said. “Quite frankly, from the appearance of both the local community and tourists coming to Dubuque, they want to see areas of downtown with occupied storefronts and vibrant businesses and business owners.”

Jacobs has also been working on Dubuque Main Street events, such as Music on Main nights in July and August

She also is helping to launch Key City Beer Festival, which will be held Aug. 5 under Dubuque’s Town Clock. Jacobs said the event is similar to an award-winning brew fest she helped create in Freeport, Ill.

Jacobs said they currently have a dozen area breweries signed up, and some larger, regional breweries will also be featured. Those with tickets can enjoy unlimited tastings, with each brewery having two different flavors to try.

“It’s really just about the beer,” Jacobs said. “There’s not going to be rides or music or any kind of extras. It’s really just for the beer lovers who want to have one spot where they can taste all of these great, local breweries.”

Vaassen added that Dubuque Main Street events provide 25% of the organization’s annual budget when it comes to fundraising.

“It’s generating excitement and use of our downtown,” he added of the events. “The Farmers Market is a great example. You have 4,000 to 5,000 people coming every Saturday to buy stuff, and then they also have coffee at Charlotte’s or Jitterz or something like that, so it’s supporting downtown businesses in the storefronts, too.”

Jacobs also has been working on some “passion projects” geared toward safety, in partnership with the Dubuque Police Department.

One is an Aug. 15 active shooter training at the Grand Opera House, where businesses can go through training to keep themselves safe in case of an active shooter incident.

Another is a new free security camera program, which Jacobs said will start this fall on Central Avenue. Businesses will be supplied with the cameras, which they then install and register with the city so police can use the cameras if a crime occurs.

“We want to make sure that when people think of shopping or dining, they think of downtown Dubuque, and absolutely nothing holds them back from a safety perspective,” Jacobs said.