Downtown Inc brings on board new 'hands on' director

Rebecca Klar
York Dispatch
New Freedom resident Elaine Bonneau is the new director of Downtown Inc. (Photo courtesy of Downtown Inc.)

Downtown Inc has a new director — and York City business owners should expect to see a lot of her. 

"I'm very hands on," said Elaine Bonneau, the organization's new leader. 

Downtown Inc announced her hiring on Wednesday, Jan. 23. She'll lead day-to-day operations and report directly to Silas Chamberlin, vice president of economic and community development at the York County Economic Alliance. 

Chamberlin was previously the CEO of Downtown Inc when the organization was run independently. The group now operates under the YCEA after a strategic affiliation was formed in the fall of 2018.

Downtown Inc maintains its own office and team, with Chamberlin still holding a high level of strategic oversight in his position, said communications director Andrew Staub. The partnership also allowed for Downtown Inc to expand its resources and team — including bringing Bonneau aboard, he said. 

Downtown Inc Chief Executive Officer Silas Chamberlin talks during a press conference at PeoplesBank Park announcing an alliance between his organization and the York County Economic Alliance Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018. Bill Kalina photo

20 years of experience: While Bonneau may be new to the area — she moved to New Freedom from Maryland five years ago — she has been excited about the downtown York business scene from the start. 

The first thing she did when she moved to the county — before unpacking — was hit up a First Friday event in the city, Bonneau said. 

"And we just loved it," she said. 

Bonneau brings more than 20 years of marketing experience to the role.

Originally from Ohio, Bonneau came to the area for college and stayed in Baltimore, working for various ad agencies, she said. 

"It was a great opportunity for me to learn from the inside how to create concise and compelling messaging and package it in creative ways, in ways that tell the customer's story," she said. 

After publishing Expresión Magazine, bilingual magazine for the Hispanic community, in 2005, Bonneau spent 10 years consulting. 

Throughout her career, Bonneau worked with businesses varying in size and industry, she said. 

"So that's what I'm excited about doing now as part of Downtown Inc — helping our business owners tell their story in a better way and connecting them with all the  resources Downtown Inc has to offer," she said. 

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Bringing resources: With the daily responsibilities business owners have, it can be hard to find the time even to log onto Facebook, Bonneau said. Her job is to step in and help bring those additional resources, she added. 

"If you're new in business and just don't know where to go for those resources ... it can be isolating," she said. 

Other ideas Bonneau wants to implement include bringing business owners together, even though there's a tendency for businesses to think competitively, she said. 

It can be hard not to look "side to side" and wonder why other stores are getting more traffic, or question "why is her restaurant busy on Tuesday night and I only have two tables," she said. 

Many business owners, however, are feeling the same pressures and challenges, Bonneau added. That's an opportunity for her to step in and offer programs and services to let businesses benefit from Downtown Inc and each other, she said. 

At a time of growth in the downtown business community, Bonneau said she's excited to "hit the ground running." 

Since attending her first First Friday when she moved five years ago, York City has only blossomed, becoming more "dynamic and rich with activity," she said. 

"Seeing the change happening in York excited me about the opportunity," she said, "again, to parlay marketing experience to help our downtown business community." 

— Rebecca Klar can be reached at rklar@yorkdispatch.com or via Twitter @RebeccaKlar_