ST. CLOUD -- The St. Cloud Area Chamber of Commerce will be taking over the responsibilities of the Downtown Council. On Tuesday the Chamber's Board of Directors voted to bring the Downtown Council under the umbrella of the Chamber.

Chamber President Julie Lunning says the existing Downtown Council board will be dissolved and they will re-establish a new board. They'll also form four sub-committees.

One of them will be a business development group that will be working on attracting new businesses for downtown and really focusing on filling those open business spaces.

Another group will be a fund development group looking for grant opportunities for the downtown. A third committee will focus on event planning.

We all love the events and activity downtown and we want to see more of those events.  Maybe bringing back the Winter Nights and Lights Parade and taking events already going on and elevating them to a larger level.

And finally, the fourth committee will be community development.

The Downtown Council has been without an Executive Director for almost three years. Under this new partnership, the Chamber will hire a person that will specifically oversee the Downtown Council Groups.

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Lunning says Mayor Dave Kleis' plan to bring more housing to the downtown is a good one, but it will be the chamber's job to attract a more diverse group of businesses.

We need the amenities and accommodations to be able to handle that, a grocery store, easier places to park, we have the restaurant district there, but not everything to support downtown residents and have the walkability and get the amenities that you need.

The mayor said earlier this month that we need to lobby the state legislature for more state funding similar to what the downtowns in Duluth and Rochester have received. Lunning says, as the chamber president, she'll be lobbying hard for more funding for our downtown.

Harder than we ever have.  What we've seen coming into other communities, we have dropped the ball in not going after it.  Now is our opportunity to have a stronger concerted effort to make it happen.  We have to, St. Cloud deserves that.

The new board will be made up of people from St. Cloud State University, the city of St. Cloud, CentraCare, Stearns County, and business owners.

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