By Bill O’Boyle, Wilkes-Barre Times Leader
WILKES-BARRE — John Chaump, president of the Downtown Wilkes-Barre Business Association since 2010, announced his resignation Friday to accept a promotion that requires he relocate.
Chaump, manager of Barnes & Noble on South Main Street, has been promoted effective Sept. 14. He will be a regional manager based in Pittsburgh.
The association’s executive committee is scheduled to meet Sept. 11 to decide on a new president.
Chaump, 37, made the announcement at Friday’s meeting of the downtown association. He has been manager at Barnes and Noble since 2007, arriving here less than one year after the store opened and the resurgence of the city’s downtown began. RC Movies 14 also opened in 2006 and since then, 37 storefronts have been occupied in the downtown, according to a recent survey done by the Diamond City Partnership.
Chaump said he is proud to have seen membership in the DWBBA grow to more than 75 members who have become more involved with downtown events and activities.
“We have seen a big increase in participation of our members in the downtown,” Chaump said. “We have become adept at engaging them in what’s going on downtown.”
Larry Newman, executive director of the Diamond City Partnership, gave a presentation on the survey — From Progress to Perception — that details how some 825 participants feel about the downtown. The survey showed that 46 percent of all jobs in the city are downtown and one out of every 10 jobs in Luzerne County are in center city.
Newman showed how a majority of the survey participants say they feel the downtown is unsafe, yet they never visit the city.
“Larry’s presentation indicates clearly the importance of the downtown to the region,” Chaump said. “A vibrant downtown is vital to everyone doing business downtown and to those working and living downtown.”
Chaump said the key to improving the misperception is staying focused on making a friendly environment for workers, residents and visitors.
“I had heard the stories of the glory days of the downtown,” Chaump, a native of Bucks County, said. “Before I moved here, I visited to check out what was going on and I was impressed with what I saw. The building blocks were already set up. I could see the transformation taking place.”
Barnes and Noble, which houses the book stores for Wilkes University and King’s College, is part of the downtown’s continuing move toward becoming a college town. Both schools have made major purchases in the downtown and opened buildings close to the city’s hub.
“The success of the entire downtown rides on capitalizing on the two colleges here,” Chaump said. “Students, staff and all employees are being integrated into the fabric of the downtown.”