The Newark Partnership board member Dan Rich addresses the crowd at a TNP forum in May.

The Newark Partnership seated its first permanent board of directors last week as the group completed its lengthy organizational phase and started work on its mission of building collaboration between the businesses, nonprofits and residents of Newark.

The July 16 meeting was the culmination of a years-long effort – led by former Mayor Polly Sierer and the University of Delaware’s Dan Rich – to develop a successor organization to the Downtown Newark Partnership, which suffered from waning interest and concerns over its exclusive focus on downtown businesses.

TNP – which, unlike the DNP, operates outside the auspices of the city government – will focus on the entire city and work to address issues beyond just the concerns of the business community. The group will function in part like a chamber of commerce, but will also seek to help support the city’s nonprofits and promote community engagement among residents.

The board includes 17 members, including city of Newark officials, UD officials, local business owners, representatives of nonprofits, residents and a UD student.

Sierer was elected chairwoman of the organization.

“I certainly look forward to staying actively involved and continuing the success of the organization,” Sierer said.

UD’s Community Engagement Initiative has provided staffing and funding for TNP as the group was being organized and will continue to play that role for the next year. By July 2020, TNP is expected to be self-sufficient and eventually will hire an executive director and other staff.

Sierer said the board’s priority is to begin raising funds and develop a membership fee structure. It is expected that members will pay to join, similar to how a chamber of commerce works, but the membership fees and benefits have yet to be determined.

The city of Newark has pledged up to $150,000 in start up funds this year, and TNP expects to request the same amount in 2020 and 2021. UD is expected to contribute a similar amount, and organizers say they have large commitments from local businesses, though they have not detailed them.

While the selection of the board was a big step for TNP, the organization also suffered a setback last week when it was forced to postpone its upcoming Academy Street dinner.

The formal, six-course, $125-per-plate outdoor dinner, which was slated for July 25, was a collaboration between a dozen downtown restaurants and would have raised money for local first responders.

TNP leaders saw the dinner as the group’s first chance to show the progress it has made and demonstrate its ability to pull off large events.

“It would have been a fabulous event, but sadly with weak ticket sales, we decided to postpone it,” Sierer said, later adding that TNP hasn’t decided when, or if, to reschedule the event.

Meanwhile, TNP’s events committee is still planning a free music festival at the Shoppes at Louviers this fall and has been in talks with The Ladybug Festival about coming to Newark next year. Ladybug has already hosted music festivals featuring all female musicians in Wilmington and Milford.

TNP’s nonprofit committee has seen success holding networking events for local nonprofits and is planning a Sept. 18 training session on fundraising, committee chairman Freeman Williams said.

“It has reinforced people’s beliefs that we’re serious and we’re listening to their thoughts and ideas,” Williams said.

The committee is also spearheading a school supply drive for the Christina School District next month.

The civic engagement committee is working to raise awareness of TNP and is planning monthly Knowing Newark events around the city. The events will include a guest speaker talking about “something cool” and then committee members will talk about the benefits of joining TNP, committee chairman Paul Keely said.

The economic enhancement committee is establishing block captains to represent businesses in various parts of the city and has been meeting with the Delaware Department of Transportation about ways to mitigate the effect of Main Street construction, committee chairman Chris Locke said.

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