There's a new person busy filling vacant storefronts and recruiting businesses to York.

Natalie Williams is Downtown Inc's new small business liaison, a job created in 2011 through the collaboration of five organizations.

Williams comes to Downtown Inc from the Realtors Association of York and Adams Counties, where she worked to forge relationships between realtors and nonprofits.

She replaces Chad Myers, who spent two years as the business development liaison.

The position, with a salary range of $42,000 to $48,000, is funded with contributions from the city, Downtown Inc, Better York, York County Economic Development Corp. and the York County Chamber of Commerce.

That agreement continues for one more year.

Conversations are under way about funding the position in the future, said Sonia Huntzinger, executive director of Downtown Inc.

"We will continue with the position regardless," she said. "With the traction that we've gained, it wouldn't make sense to stop it now."

The recommendation to hire a business liaison came in 2009 as part of the findings by Roger Brooks, founder and CEO of Destination Development International. Brooks was commissioned by city businesses to gauge how York can better market itself to tourists, shoppers and other businesses.

Of Brooks' 33 recommendations, "I think it's safe to say we've checked them all off," Huntzinger said Monday.


Benefits: As examples, she pointed to the definition of the city's Market District, the focus on the blocks near Central Market, the public street art and pedestrian-friendly street improvements.

"We're turning our attention now to the first block of West Market Street," she said.

Myers spent the first two years recruiting businesses, developing studies and gathering empirical data to show prospective businesses, Huntzinger said.

For example, she said, the liaison can share information with prospective business owners about demographics, community desires and the profiles of adjacent neighborhoods.

"We knew going in that it was going to take the year or two to get some traction," Huntzinger said. "We really are starting to see benefit from it."

The city has celebrated 23 ribbon cuttings in the past year, Huntzinger said.

Williams will continue that work but will also focus on business retention -- the reason she's being called the small business liaison rather than the business development liaison.

"What we're finding is that it is as equally important to retain the businesses that are here," Huntzinger said.

-- Erin James may also be reached at