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Williston Downtowners Association works to promote businesses, make area walkable

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WILLISTON, North Dakota — A group of business owners, residents and Williston officials is working to liven up the city's downtown by promoting local businesses and making the area more walkable.

The Williston Downtowners Association has gone from five to 60 members in just two years, and is using the growth to speed the city's development, the Bismarck Tribune (http://bit.ly/1t9suTT ) reported. About seven new stores and several restaurants have opened since the group formed.

The group's original members wanted to create a united vision for the area as oil production brought in an influx of new business, executive director Karissa Kjo said.

"I think we needed that core five to get things started," she said. "Now, every day other people are wanting to get involved."

The members are very supportive and hope to see growth in each other's businesses, according to Kjos.

"As much as we can bring small business downtown, it only helps them and us," she said.

About a quarter to a half of the association is made up of business owners, a few city officials and the rest are residents who are interested in helping out.

"I think we're moving in a positive direction," she said, adding the group is taking strides to stay ahead of the new development.

The association's streetscape project includes widening sidewalks, cutting back to two lanes of traffic, planting trees and putting up lights to make downtown more inviting. The group is also conducting a parking study and is starting to host events, including a Small Business Saturday after Thanksgiving and Holiday Stroll to kick off the shopping season.

"We still want to do so much more," Kjos said. "We want to make downtown a destination."

She said the people of Williston are starting to understand the association's goals because the area is at the heart of the community.

"A town can get boring if nothing is happening," she said.

The group welcomes suggestions from any residents on how it can continue to improve the downtown area.

"We want the new people to be at home here, too," Kjos said.

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