If you’ve ever spent time in downtown Sioux Falls, you’re probably familiar with the DTSF-branded banners that hang from the street lamps.
It’s a logo and an acronym that have become synonymous with downtown living, but there’s more behind the banners than meets the eye.
Where it all began
DTSF, which of course stands for Downtown Sioux Falls, is a membership organization that exists to enhance the quality of downtown living.
According to DTSF president, Joe Batcheller, the organization has been around since the late 1980s.
Initially, it functioned as a bridging of the downtown merchants’ association and downtown development association, which were comprised of major property owners and employers.
“At the time, their goal was to work on the visioning of downtown,” Batcheller said. “It was a much different downtown at that time.”
Later, the organization became known as Main Street Sioux Falls, until it rebranded to DTSF about ten years ago.
Batcheller says part of the rebranding had to do with an intentional re-alignment with DTSF’s status as a city within the International Downtown Association (IDA).
“We wanted to be seen as less of a small town main street association and more of a cosmopolitan downtown organization,” Batcheller said.
Additionally, being part of the IDA offers DTSF a supportive network of professionals to tap into and learn more about best practices or emerging issues across the country.
“We can see what’s being done to address issues in other cities, whether it’s dockless bike or scooter share programs, marketing tactics, or cleaning green for downtown sidewalks,” Batcheller said.
What can DTSF offer you?
According to Batcheller, DTSF functions as a mini-chamber of commerce of sorts.
Businesses can apply for membership within the association, which affords them a variety of benefits including increased visibility, access to relevant downtown data (ex. pedestrian counts throughout the day for businesses trying to set their hours), participation in the DTSF gift card program, and a voice in the conversation about the future of downtown.
“It’s an opportunity for businesses to contribute to the community they’re part of and be part of something larger than themselves,” Batcheller said.
DTSF also hosts a variety of member events and socials throughout the year, as part of an effort to increase networking opportunities for downtown business owners.
Additionally, DTSF is dedicated to financially supporting the community.
In the mid-90s, the organization established the Downtown Development Economic Incentive Fund as an opportunity to provide gap financing for businesses looking to get a start in downtown.
According to Batcheller, the need for this type of program has decreased in recent years as more loan products and options have hit the market. Still, DTSF remained committed to its mission, and launched a retail incubator program which functioned more like a grant than a loan.
The incubator program has since evolved to a different type of economic development fund. Currently, the focus is on economic development through the arts.
But DTSF isn’t solely member-focused–it serves the general public as well. The organization’s website acts as a convenient tool for downtown visitors and residents to search local business listings and learn about upcoming events via their online calendar.
The organization also provides services similar to those typically covered by the city.
“We plant flowers downtown and we’re watering them, we’re sweeping the sidewalks, and just trying to enhance the beauty,” Batcheller said. “That’s something that the city does too, but because downtown has so many people and so many businesses, it takes a special focus.”
Ultimately, DTSF exists to support and enhance the downtown community in all areas, from economic development to city beautification and engaging events for both members and the public.
Sadie Swier, DTSF’s marketing and communications coordinator, emphasized downtown’s ideal atmosphere for both business and residential living.
“DTSF and the whole community truly believe that downtown is the most vibrant and quality place to live, work, play, shop, dine and discover in the region,” Swier said. “This is an ideal place to start a business because of the strong network of small business owners and other entrepreneurial entities ready to help at any moment.”