I’m involved in a few local projects this year, from contributing on the host committee for the Pro Bike/Pro Walk Symposium that is coming to Long Beach this September, to leading communications efforts for the Aquatic Capital of America Foundation, which promotes the city’s aquatics amenities, activities and athletes and amenities.

One of the initiatives that I’m contributing my time towards this year is building upon the East Spring Street Business Association work that neighborhood insurance guru Joan Stiehl began. Joan first organized the group 3 years ago as a means for the merchants to network and promote their businesses, and to connect with government and local organizations. Some Spring Street merchants have been involved, but many have not. Part of this is the nature of the businesses – there are many small business owners who close up shops by 6 pm and engage in their other activities.

I’ve taken interest in the East Spring group for a couple of reasons. First, I live in the Plaza area of Long Beach, near El Dorado Park. My tract was among the first Plaza “units” to apply for annexation into the city of Long Beach, led in 1952-1953 by members of the Lakewood Plaza Citizens Improvement Association.

Second, unlike other areas in the city, we don’t have an active business networking group for the home office consultants like myself to meet up with. Here in the Plaza, I can think of a several persons doing consulting projects working from their home offices, and I’m sure there are dozens more. The East Spring group offers all of us the opportunity to connect.

One vision for this East Spring 2.0 idea is to model after the Bixby Knolls Business Improvement Association with its events designed to support businesses, engage residents and promote the shopping district as a Long Beach destination. We can do this along East Spring, building upon the area’s Plaza heritage and name to create our own vibrant district that can draw airport hotel guests, be a rallying force for neighborhood families and seniors, and keep people shopping local.

I see a newly branded Plaza District group as the foundation for a broader marketing effort along East Spring, driving more customers to eateries like Tracy’s Bar and Grill and Straw Hat, and to unique shops like Gatsby’s Books. And with Jax Bicycles as an anchor and the need for a major east-west bike route being addressed in the city’s master bike plan, the Plaza District along East Spring can easily become a bike-friendly business district, encouraging Plaza residents to hop on their bikes for quick errands.

I’m committed to working to help connect together other Plaza District business people over the next few months, and if you want to get involved to help form a groundswell of interested persons, please connect with me, or follow the new Twitter handle @PlazaDistrictLB. Let’s make it happen together.