Business women get go-ahead to plan events in Columbiana

COLUMBIANA — Three local business women were given the go-ahead by city council last week to plan new events in the city, as a test run of sorts for their new event planning business.

Following yet another discussion weighing the pros and cons of the venture, council approved allowing Co-Branded Events to serve as event planners for a new Food and Maker’s Market in the city once a month during May through October of next year, with specific dates to be determined later and approved by City Manager Lance Willard.

The business will also plan a new FEASTival of the Arts event Aug. 4 and 5 on Main Street and at the Town Center at Firestone Farms.

City permission is not required for events held at the Town Center, as that is privately owned property.

Co-Branded Events is owned by Jacqueline Shell, Renee Walker and Haley Graham, who have already served on the Columbiana First Committee, formerly known as the city chamber’s First Friday Committee.

Shell said it was through their involvement on the committee that they found there were a lot of opportunities for “fantastic events,” and also noticed a “hunger in the community for these events.”

Aside from their joint business venture, Shell and her husband are owners of a new winery slated for business at the Town Center while Walker co-owns the Watchtower Heroes with her husband and Graham works at the local Ace Hardware.

The women want to see more people come to the city through the events they plan.

Some of the hesitation among a few on council regarding Co-Branded Events was the logistics of allowing a private company to use public property.

Councilmen Rick Noel and Dick McBane wondered how much in costs would be incurred by the city through police presence and traffic rerouting as a result of the businesses’ requested road closures during certain events.

They also wondered if Co-Branded would be using city water or other utilities during the events.

“I would like to see somehow agreements made that any costs the city incurs are somehow reimbursed and also that the businesses downtown are comfortable with it,” McBane said.

He added, however, that he does not have a problem with the overall concept and feels that it would give people more opportunities to see what the city has to offer.

Mayor Bryan Blakeman said one of the benefits of the business is that it is spending the money on marketing for the events, not the city.

“They are benefitting but they are also taking a risk,” he said.

He also recalled that the women did agree with allowing brick and mortar businesses on Main Street to participate at no cost.

“As long as we are not spending a lot of taxpayer money I think it is going to be a good thing,” Councilman Ted Souder said.

Police Chief Tim Gladis said he didn’t anticipate the events would warrant additional police presence.

“It wouldn’t be any additional cost to us in terms of staffing that we would normally have unless there begins to be traffic problems or anything that would require additional allocation of resources,” Gladis said.

Shell, Walker and Haley all said they were willing to come to an agreement with the city regarding the cost of resources.

Walker provided council with a copy of an agreement the city of Canton has available for similar businesses or events that outlines the scope of what could be paid in return for city resources.

Council gave its approval with the stipulation that after the events the business would come back to council with a plan for potential future events down the road, and separate approval would be required for future events.

“This is an experiment and we are to evaluate the process,” Noel said.