COMMUNITY PROFILE: Michael J. Liss, President, Downtown Business Alliance of Boca Raton
The Downtown Business Alliance of Boca Raton was founded to transform the experience of owning a business and working in Downtown Boca Raton. I founded it after I moved my law practice Downtown last summer. It was born from a recognition that, until now, there has been no “business community” in this great city’s central business district.
When I moved into the Bank of America Tower, I noticed that I was surrounded by large residential buildings from which nobody seemed to come or go during the business day. I also noticed a lack of “business-attired” people on the streets during work hours. Yet, I continuously met Downtown Boca business people, including a lot of other lawyers, everywhere BUT Downtown. I realized that I had to leave Downtown just to get to know my business neighbors.
I also recognized during the “Wildflower” votes (the Council vote on the lease and the citizen referendum) that all conversations impacting Downtown were “Residents v. Developers” conversations, and that there was no voice for the Downtown business owners and their employees in those conversations. There are, roughly, 1000 businesses in the Downtown, and several thousand work Downtown every day. Now they have a seat at the table.
We are just getting started, with our first membership meeting set for May 1 at the Boca Raton Community Church, which joined as one of our first members. Our boundaries are Northwest Fourth Avenue to the West, the beach to the East, Northwest 9th Street to the North and Camino Real/Camino Gardens Boulevard to the South. Any business within those boundaries can join, regardless of size, for a nominal fee. We are also permitting businesses whose owners certify that a substantial part of their business or clientele are based in Downtown Boca to join. We also have a “Friends of the DBA” affiliation for businesses, residents and elected officials who have a great interest in Downtown Boca business, but don’t qualify as members based on the membership criteria.
The DBA of Boca aims to enhance the experience of owning a business and working Downtown. Our committees include Local Government Communications, Arts, Culture and Civics, Charitable Events, Social events and several others. We will not only have Downtown-exclusive networking events and social activities (such as wine tasting at our Museum of Art, karaoke and co-ed softball games), we will join together and support each of the charity walks in Mizner as a team, and undertake all sorts of activities that bring otherwise casual contacts to a higher level. We will also being working along with Boca Raton’s elected officials and the City’s staff to address issues and solve problems together.
The truth is that people who really know, like and trust each other do much more business together. And, since all business people spend more time in their work neighborhoods than their residential neighborhoods, getting to know business neighbors and enjoying the neighborhood is not only critical to success, it is critical to enjoying the greater part of one’s life. So, to enhance our neighborhood, we are participating in and supporting the arts, civics and the cultural aspects of our growing neighborhood.
We have also already undertaken discovery of solutions to parking, traffic and transportation as partners with our government. We are more impacted than anyone else by the growing pains of our city. We take the stand that the private sector is nimble and effective, and can affect change a lot faster working with our government than government can undertake by itself.
We already have had a few happy hours and have had dozens of businesses join as members. The DBA will continue to reflect the business community Downtown; retail, restaurant, not-for-profit and for-profit alike. If you have a business Downtown of any kind, we’d be happy to share our opportunities with you. Please feel free to contact me at any time.