Noblesville Main Street’s new director Renee Oldham is ready to expand on foundation left by Joe Arrowood
Renee Oldham knows she has big shoes to fill.
The recently named new director of Noblesville Main Street is replacing longtime community leader Joe Arrowood, who announced his plans to retire in July after being involved with Main Street for nine years and the Noblesville Boys & Girls Club director for 22 years before that.
“This wasn’t a position, this was a cause for him,” Oldham said. “He very much cares about the quality of life and the important role downtown plays in that. It’s always difficult to follow someone that successful.”
Oldham knows the foundation Arrowood created and is up to the challenge of expanding the organization.
“I will work to the best of my abilities,” she said. “People are going to miss him. This business is all about relationship building and trust.”
Charlie Connett, who served on the search committee, said Main Street had 40 excellent applicants for the director position. The top five met with board members and community business people for interviews and then three finalists were selected.
“We knew we weren’t going to find anyone like Joe. Joe’s has been such a big part of the community for so many years,” Connett said. “We were looking for someone who could come in the community, be personable and could establish themselves as the face of Noblesville Main Street pretty quickly.”
The board selected Oldham because of her energy and passion.
“She has a great deal of experience with Main Street,” Connett said.
According to Connett, one of the moves the board wants to make is a four-point approach, which includes economic development, promotion, design, and organization.
“We’ve focused on promotion for so many years with events. We want to start expanding out of that,” he said. “Joe established a great base and we want to go a step farther with economic development and design.”
“My specialty is economic development,” said Oldham. “I am very, very passionate about economic development. I love seeing small businesses be successful.”
As the executive director of the Innovation Center of East Central Indiana, Oldham developed and directed the not-for-profit full-service business incubator for startup companies. The center, which was a $1.4 million public-private partnership, also serves as a state of the art training and video conferencing facility.
“I understand what it takes to be an entrepreneur. I want to support them,” she said.
Oldham has additional work experience in downtown redevelopment plans of Evansville, Hamilton (Ohio) and Ruston, La., and with the Main Street Programs in Indiana and Louisiana. She also wrote, was awarded, administered and developed the $5 million Richmond Certified Tech Park Program.
“I like bringing public-private partnerships together and help facilitate their growth,” she said.
Just days into her new job, Oldham is starting to build her own relationships. She met with Noblesville Mayor John Ditslear and his staff at city hall. She is also meeting with downtown merchants and as many people as she can to “see how things work.”
“I am blown away by the commitment from the city to downtown. Every one beamed when talking about downtown,” she said. “There’s something really extraordinary about Noblesville. The way the community is perceived and beloved. It’s highly unusual for a community of 58,000 to have as viable downtown as this.”
A native of Richmond, Oldham is not a newcomer to Noblesville; however, she is surprised by the community’s love for the city.
“Everyone I talk to says you’re going to love it here … It’s just such a wonderful feeling,” she said. “I come from a community that doesn’t feel that way about itself.”
Oldham said she planned to relocate to Noblesville with her husband. Currently, she is driving home some nights and spending the others with her two daughters who live and work in the area.
“I’m staying during the week to attend functions and get to know people,” she said.
Oldham is one of 200 certified Main Street managers. To become certified, Oldham traveled to Washington, D.C. and went through extensive training for two weeks.
“We were tested on everything about Main Street from A-Z,” she said.
Oldham’s goal for Noblesville Main Street is easy — she wants the organization to make downtown effective and viable.
“There’s a real opportunity for downtown,” Oldham said, adding that she planned to utilize technology in her new role. “I want to use all the opportunities available like social media to target markets and spotlight and promote businesses.”
Meet Renee Oldham
Birthplace: Richmond, Ind.
Hobbies: Spending time with family, reading, family trips and traveling. “I really love the Carolinas.”
Education: Northeastern High School and Bowling Green State University (Ohio)
Awards: Sagamore of the Wabash (November 2003), Small Business Development Advocate of the Year (January 2005), YMCA Woman of the Year for Richmond (May 2001) and State of Indiana Main Street Program Director of the Year (May 1997).