Editor’s note: In this blog series, District Marketing Mojo, Verdin President and CEO Mary Verdin interviews a leader in the world of marketing and communications for special districts and business improvement districts each month. Check back here regularly for new interviews.
A love of community, an innovative approach to addressing safety and security, and a dedication to improving individuals’ lives. That describes Rebekah and Chris Evans, the PBID super couple.
Rebekah and Chris Evans have both had interesting career paths, sometimes intertwining but always collaborative and complementary, that led them to their current roles as executive directors of different Property Business Improvement Districts (PBIDs) in the Sacramento area.
A Background of Entrepreneurship
From the beginning, Rebekah and Chris believed in small business. For almost two decades (1983-2000) the duo owned Bridal Expo and worked together to produce trade shows nationwide. These expo events brought together vendors with engaged couples, assisting in the wedding planning. But more than this, Bridal Expo developed “Business Bootcamp” workshops to share their entrepreneurial experience and knowledge, helping these small wedding-focused business owners understand how to run a profitable and successful business.
After two decades running Bridal Expo, Rebekah took a pause to focus on their three young children. When she returned to the workplace, she put her organizational and promotional chops to work as president/CEO of different Chambers of Commerce within the state, and also fit in time to run promotions and outreach for Chris, who had authored two books and was on a nationwide speaking circuit. She entered into the BID world as executive director of the Ventura County Lodging Association, a tourism district tasked with promoting and driving visitors to four cities within the county. Through her tourism work, she brought her family to Sacramento County and is now at Discover Carmichael, a PBID located in a community adjacent to Sacramento.
Chris’s path started in Las Vegas, where he grew up and worked at the Las Vegas Convention Center, one of the largest convention centers in the U.S., located in the convention hub of the country. With this foundation of how to manage the many moving parts of conventions, his entrepreneurial journey began. He moved to Fresno and worked at an appliance store when video cameras came out. He saw the opportunity to start a wedding video business, the first one in the Central Valley, and left retail behind. His events experience merged with the wedding business when the couple moved to Southern California, and Bridal Expo was launched. When the couple moved to Roseville in 2017, Chris joined Rebekah in the PBID space, working with a number of the districts to help them support businesses and improve their communities.
Changing the World, One Street at a Time
The Carmichael Improvement District is part of a community that is known for its history within the County of Sacramento. Carmichael is a charming and family-friendly suburb with a population of close to 76,000. The community offers the perfect balance of urban convenience and a small-town atmosphere, where families and individuals alike call it their hometown, many never moving away and, if they do, staying close by and maintaining a connection. With multiple parks, trails and the American River bordering one side of the town, there is plenty to love about living in Carmichael.
In 2016 the PBID was created to address the issues of increasing crime in the area, and to support businesses that were struggling to stay open. Driven by a shared vision of fostering long-term commercial prosperity and enduring appeal, the Carmichael Improvement District (CID) is creating success by building upon the community’s solid foundation. Through these efforts, they aim to support local businesses, property owners and residents as they move toward a goal of living and working within a district that is attractive, entertaining and welcoming.
The CID has brought value to its constituents through the strong connections they’ve built with businesses, residents, local law enforcement and city officials. A dream would be to complete the “Carmichael Corridor,” fixing the roads, adding places for the community to gather, with a monument sign to designate the sense of place and beautify the area even more.
In 10 years Rebekah envisions Carmichael as a walkable community with people out and about, and a downtown area with thriving, welcoming businesses. Commuters travel through Carmichael now, but there is potential to get people to slow down, get out and shop, and enjoy all that Carmichael could offer. This all starts with being a clean and safe community, then it’s all better from there.
A Bit About Antelope’s ABCs
The Antelope Business Community (ABC) is a small district in Antelope, in Sacramento County. There are approximately 48,000 residents who call Antelope home, and it is primarily a bedroom community with few services available.
The Antelope Business Community Property Business Improvement District (ABC District) serves to improve commerce within downtown Antelope for businesses, property owners and citizens alike.
The PBID includes 93 property owners and approximately 110 businesses open at any given time. Being a county PBID, Chris and his team work closely with county supervisors and staff daily to meet the needs of the community.
A big focus for Chris in his district, as well as throughout the broader Sacramento County area, is addressing homelessness and drug issues that have become prevalent. Chris has worked in many capacities to support those in need and has seen success in programs that go to what he sees as the primary root cause of homelessness: drug and alcohol abuse. “California has a drug issue. If we solved the drug issue, we could solve the homeless issue,” he explains.
One example of a program that Chris established and continues to participate in and monitor is the Public Spaces Team in Sacramento County’s River District. This two-year program empowers individuals who have faced homelessness or drug addiction by allowing them to reintegrate into society and rebuild their lives. This mutually beneficial program equips participants with valuable workplace skills as they engage in various tasks to clean and maintain public spaces within the district.
Chris’s vision for both the ABC District and River District is to continue to build safe and secure communities and engage all citizens to work together to improve their communities and their lives.
Innovation in Action
Understanding the value of collaboration and the sharing of ideas, Rebekah and Chris worked with other PBID managers to establish a PBID coalition that is made up of 20 PBIDs throughout Sacramento city and county, meeting regularly. Currently they have brought everyone together for a luncheon but, coming from a conference and events background, the Evans duo could see this becoming a larger event.
The goal of this PBID convening is to report what the PBIDs are accomplishing and communicate that to the state of California, demonstrating how these dedicated groups are moving the needle to improve society on a micro level, which can then ripple outward to the broader community, state and beyond. The future is bright and could include regular conferences and even the development of an association.
The Evans’ innovation starts with addressing basic needs and ensuring citizens have what they need to be successful on a foundational level, and then they can move on to change the world.
At the End of the Day
Rebekah and Chris have their priorities straight: family, community, personal values. These principles guide them through their daily lives and all intertwine to benefit the PBIDs with which they work, for the betterment of all.
When asked what three people, living or dead, they would want to have dinner with, here is what they each responded.
As the grounding part of this dynamic couple, Rebekah would go back to those who have had a big impact on her life: her 90-year-old mother, her three best friends (since they were eight 8 years old), and former President Ronald Reagan.
For Chris, it’s more existential. First, he says, who wouldn’t want to have dinner with Jesus? (He clarifies that “that’d be cool without the dying part”). He would expect the meal to include bread, fish and wine. His other two meal companions would be William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army, and whoever is president in the year 3000.
For more information on Rebekah and Chris Evans, or their respective PBIDs, visit Carmichael Improvement District, ABC District, or the River District’s Open Spaces Program, or email them at Rebekah Evans or Chris Evans.