UW students hope to revitalize Grandview's downtown area


University of Washington student Lana Kim (L) introduces herself to Grandview High School student Sandra Romero. The two will be working together to help revitalize downtown Grandview.

GRANDVIEW - Downtown Grandview is being looked at with a fresh pair of eyes. Well, 17 fresh pairs of eyes.

Students from the University of Washington's business and economic development program rolled into town last Friday afternoon, prepared to take a look at the downtown area, including seven businesses, and help them come up with marketing plans and ways of making the downtown corridor more inviting to customers.

The 17 students are taking part in an upper level marketing class being taught by Dr. Mary Ann Odegaard. The students will spend several days in Grandview over the course of the next month, working with business owners and lending a helping hand in the downtown revitalization process.

University of Washington student Cindy Chrin said she decided to take the marketing class because she likes the idea of being able to take what she has learned in the classroom and put it to work in the real world. She added that she also likes the idea that she is helping revitalize Grandview's downtown area.

"Se we can take what we learned in class...and help," Chrin said.

Chrin is one of a small group of students who will be working directly with the owners of Mini Bargains, a shop in Grandview's downtown corridor. Chrin said her team will help the business owner come up with a marketing plan, and help figure out how to get more foot traffic through the door.

Although the students are ready to get started on their marketing projects, Odegaard reminded everyone that this will be a long process. The students plan on working on the Grandview project for two years.

Chrin said at this point she and the other students are simply trying to get a feel for the community.

"We're just learning about the retail businesses," Chrin said.

Odegaard explained that the group of University of Washington students will be in Grandview for seven days over the course of the next month. This past weekend marked the students' first three-day venture to the community. Odegaard said the students will return for one more three-day weekend and then for a one-day trip. She added that individual teams working with different businesses may make more trips over the mountains.

The University of Washington students aren't the only people who will be working with local businessmen. Seven Grandview High School marketing students will also be working on the project.

Grandview High School teacher Michelle Swearingen said she has seven students who are volunteering their time to help serve as translators for the college students.

"What a great opportunity for these kids," said Grandview Superintendent Kevin Chase. He added that having the high school students work with the college students helps broaden their horizons. "They get to see what it looks like to be a university student," Chase noted.

Although it may seem as though the University of Washington students almost happened upon Grandview, the project has been in the works for nearly two years.

Michael Verchot, director of the University of Washington's business and economic development program, said the college has been visible in the Yakima Valley for several years. He noted that over the years University of Washington marketing students have partnered with students from Toppenish's Heritage University to help out small businesses in the Valley.

However, it was Grandview businessman Gary Christensen who turned the school's attention a little farther down the Valley from Toppenish.

Verchot said Christensen was recognized as a recipient of one of the University of Washington's minority business awards two years ago, and that's when talks began about bringing UW students to Grandview to help the community's small businesses.

"We were invited down to see what we could to do help grow small business in Grandview," Verchot said.

And that's all it took. This past weekend the 17 students from the University of Washington took time to meet with business owners, tour the community and the downtown area, see the Wal-Mart distribution center and get to know the customers that patronize Grandview businesses.


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