Newtown Corporation not quite dead yet, non-profit decides to regroup to continue promoting township and the borough
NEWTOWN TOWNSHIP - To borrow a line from Mark Twain, the death of Newtown Corporation has been greatly exaggerated.
crank Brassell, chairman of the group’s board, addressed the Newtown supervisors informal work session Aug. 13, telling them that despite a “tumultuous last couple of years,” his organization has decided to keep going.
“cor the last 2 1/2 years we were beaten in the head with a baseball bat,” Brassell exclaimed, “I’m surprised that we’re still around.”
“During the last several months,” he acknowledged, “we thought about dissolution.” But Brassell said that in the early spring Newtown Corporation decided to “focus on what we’ve done, and we we’re going to do,” despite no longer receiving funds from Newtown township and borough.
“We watched from afar and saw this organization deteriorate,” said Supervisor Rob Ciervo. According to Ciervo, the supervisors questioned whether the group should “dismantle” or be given another chance.
“We need direction,” Brassell admitted.
The Newtown Corporation describes itself as an economic development body that manages a large public-private partnership. According to its website, AllAboutNewtown. org, the group’s mission “is to foster a strong business environment while maintaining harmony with surrounding neighborhoods and preserving Newtown’s rich historical character.”
But hard economic times have sidetracked that mission. Currently, the Newtown Corporation is left with one employee who works out of the township building. In December 2009, the salaried executive director Chris Ortwein was dismissed, leading to the downward slide. Brassell says that the group is currently seeking applications for volunteers to serve on its board of directors.
Brassell detailed NewWRwn CRrSRrDWiRn’V finDnFes over the past year to the four supervisors, who seemed receptive with the efforts to retool the organization.
However, Supervisor Chairman Mike Gallagher said “I don’t see anything being done by the Newtown Corporation to generate money.” Gallagher also added that the group should make concerted efforts to “get a desirable marketing partner.”
Brassell agreed, noting that they are trying to come up with program packages and a “low cost way for business to give back to the community.”
In addition, he said that one goal of the organization is to create a committee to help promote Newtown’s restaurants, as well as improve its website which would continue to highlight area attractions and events.
Brassell acknowledged that Newtown Corporation must be “income generating.”
BuW finDnFiDO wRHV nHDrOy scuttled the group. According to Brassell, there was roughly $97,000 in income for 2011, down considerably from the prior year, while operating expenses last year topped $135,000.
Most of the group’s revenue in 2011 came from its popular Newtown Brewfest held last October.
“We only made about $17,000 from it,” Brassell told the supervisors. “Normally it nets between $50,000-60,000.”
In addition, he said, there was no Musiccest in 2011. 7KH firVW DnG RnOy RnH wDV at Shady Brook carm the in 2010.
The group plans to hold another Brewfest Saturday, Oct. 20 at the Newtown Athletic Club, but it will be the only sponsored event this year.
Brassell disclosed that that holiday parade in December 2011 broke even. The event, which he said normally takes between $8,000-12,000 to operate, will be run this year by the Newtown Business Association.
Given the organization’s EOHDN fiVFDO KHDOWK, 6uSHrvisor Rob Ciervo questioned its sustainability. “Community groups have to step up and help you,” Ciervo told Brassell.
But Brassell said that seeking funding from the general public is “not the way to go now.”
According to Brassell, Newtown Corporation is going to work with Newtown Township Manager hurt cerguson to apply for Bucks County economic development and redevelopment grants, as well as search for viable marketing partners.
Brassell said that the Newtown Swim Club was such a partner, but no longer participates because of owner David Platt’s ongoing health issues. In addition, the Club recently has announced that it plans to close after the 2013 summer swim season.
cerguson told Brassell that he wants to help resuscitate the Newtown Corporation. “There are a half a dozen things that can be done at no expense,” he noted.
In addition, cerguson said that the group has to reach put to the public to determine what potential businesses that residents would like to see in the area. “Then Newtown Corporation must work to bring those business in,” cerguson said.
But Ciervo questioned WKH OiNHOiKRRG RI finGing new businesses. “The old director couldn’t do it,” he “3HrKDSV yRu nHHG WR finG an interim director.”
Brassell acknowledged the shortfalls, but asked that the township look towards the future viability of the group. “We have some tangible ideas,” he claimed.
Supervisor Chairman Gallagher asked Brassell to return to the supervisors’ Nov. 19 work session with a “written plan of action” of how the group is going to apply for grants and seek marketing partners. Gallagher also asked that Newtown Corporation develop a strategy to work with the Bucks County Conference and Visitor’s Bureau so that the Newtown area can be properly promoted.
Supervisor Ryan Gallagher agreed, “the group of volunteers is spread too thin ... just like any good business you have to have a plan.”
“The Newtown Corporation is the best vehicle to drive economic development,” he said, “I see some holes that can easily be fixHG.”
Meanwhile, Supervisor Philip Calabro added that he would like to see the organization develop a fundraising plan as well.
Brassell pointed out that the township and borough have the 25,000 residents and that large-scale events, such as Brewfest, can be successful.
“When it’s all said and done, people don’t come to live in the area because of the government ... it’s because of the events and things that we do collectively,” Brassell explained.
“We have to decide who were are and what we do,” he declared.