Q&A: Todd Cutts

Executive Director of the Olympia Downtown Alliance

Todd Cutts has been leading the Olympia Downtown Alliance (ODA) as its executive director for the past four years. With a background in economic development for downtown organizations in Denver, Long Beach, and SeaTac — where he later served as SeaTac’s city manager — Cutts is passionate about urban environments.

The ODA works to be a catalyst for a vibrant and thriving downtown through service to businesses and property owners, according to its mission statement online.

“I’ve enjoyed my four years as executive director,” Cutts said. “I’m constantly energized and inspired working with our small-business community. We’re focused on developing programs and projects to address oft en-complicated challenges. I’m excited about the promise of downtown Olympia and am optimistic about the direction it is headed.”

How has the ODA evolved since you first joined?

We’ve added to the suite of services that we provide to our stakeholders and worked to enhance the services we traditionally provided. This all started by listening to our business and property owners. We took what we learned and developed our services to provide value to our community, both downtown and more broadly.

A new area of focus for the ODA that is really integral to any downtown management effort is supporting a clean, safe, and healthy downtown. We’re focused on supporting a welcoming experience when our community visits their downtown. We added an ambassador-style program called the Downtown Guides to greet our visitors and work with our street-dependent population. We’ve also successfully advocated our city for additional landscaping maintenance and sidewalk cleaning.

In addition to this, we’ve upped our game in terms of marketing/ contracting with Mosaic Marketing Studios to enhance our social media and web presence, and to develop fresh content on a weekly basis through our newsletter. We also work to assist our small businesses with coordination of technical trainings and ensuring they are kept abreast of current and emerging issues downtown.

How has the ODA pivoted to serve its community during COVID-19?

We’ve certainly had to adjust our programming as a result of the pandemic. The City of Olympia has been a great partner in this endeavor. We partnered with the city to administer a grant program to help businesses improve things like outdoor seating, heating, and lighting, as well as to make much-needed physical repairs, such as broken windows. While we had to cancel events such as community-favorite Music in the Park, we pivoted to more “passive” events, such as our Love Oly Shop & Dine week that offered customers the chance to experience downtown at their own pace and comfort level.

What have been some of the biggest challenges for the ODA?

Our mission is to serve our businesses and property owners. Their challenges are our challenges. We’ve been riding shotgun with them through the twists and turns of COVID and impacts of demonstrations over the summer. I believe our collective resiliency as a downtown through this challenging period will give way to a vibrant and thriving downtown post-pandemic.

What has been most rewarding about your work with the ODA?

I see urban environments as living, breathing organisms. They can be healthy and thriving, they can be sick and ailing, or they can be someplace in between. I enjoy observing, listening, and learning — developing strategy, and then problem-solving and executing — all with an eye toward supporting a healthy and thriving downtown. My perfect day is a Saturday downtown with my family, eating, shopping, strolling, and taking it all in. When I look around and watch our community enjoying themselves and our gem of a downtown, that’s my biggest reward.

What’s something people may not know about the ODA?

Our organization serves a downtown straddling the line between the charm of a traditional main street environment and the sophistication of a larger, more populous downtown. Given that, we are both a nationally accredited Main Street organization and a member of the International Downtown Association.

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