Valley AMA Honors the Man Behind Harrisonburg’s Downtown Rebirth

Eddie Bumbaugh named the Valley AMA Marketer of the Year

Eddie BimbaughEddie Bumbaugh, Executive Director of the Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance (HDR), has long been a beloved and honored figure in the Harrisonburg area. On Wednesday, October 13, the Valley AMA (a subchapter of Central Virginia AMA) made it official, naming Eddie its first-ever Valley AMA Marketer of the Year.

It’s not the first time, of course, that Eddie, the HDR, and Harrisonburg itself have received recognition and accolades. Over the past ten years, Eddie’s vision, entrepreneurial energy and unflagging dedication have led the way for the revitalization of Harrisonburg’s downtown. The city’s downtown has seen a boom in new restaurants and retail opportunities, and local businesses are increasingly choosing to locate in the downtown area. The value of Harrisonburg’s downtown real estate has doubled since the HDR began its work, and arts, cultural and entertainment offerings attract thousands of visitors to the downtown streets.  These accomplishments and more began earning Harrisonburg and the HDR awards in 2009, culminating in the highly selective and prestigious Great American Main Street Award in 2014.

Video courtesy of WHSV, originally posted at

Yet it was clear that this very personal recognition from his hometown supporters meant a great deal to Eddie. He had not been told ahead of time that he would be receiving the award — only that he was being invited to tell HDR’s story. Many of Eddie’s friends and admirers in the Harrisonburg community did know, however, and they flocked to Wednesday’s event to show their support, affection and gratitude for all Eddie has done.

It made for an emotional event, especially in the moment when William Roy, Chair of the Valley AMA, stepped forward to tell Eddie that he had been chosen as the Valley AMA Marketer of the Year. Instead of shaking William’s hand, Eddie grabbed William in a bear hug, causing the room to erupt into applause.

Characteristically, most of what Eddie said in acceptance of the award — and in telling HDR’s story — was not about himself. Instead, his extemporaneous speech focused primarily on Harrisonburg itself and its distinctive assets — particularly its people. According to the organizers of the Main Street Award, Eddie reported, the contingent that traveled to Detroit to accept on Harrisonburg’s behalf was the largest of any winning city in the history of the award. There were so many people who had contributed to Harrisonburg’s success, Eddie said, that even the city’s generous travel stipend fund wasn’t enough for everyone. Fortunately, two local businesses stepped into the gap: Dynamic Aviation chartered a plane to carry most of Harrisonburg’s contingent, and Bluestone Vineyard’s private jet took the rest.

Eddie also spoke about the larger marketing lessons from Harrisonburg’s experience: the number one strategy responsible for the city’s success, he said, is targeting: defining the target audiences and focusing the strategy squarely on them. Eddie and HDR put a great deal of work into carefully defining the target audiences of Harrisonburg’s downtown revitalization strategy and identifying what they most wanted to draw them downtown: unique experiences.

“This is a perfect demonstration of why we chose Eddie for this award,” said William Roy. “His dedication to and love for this area, combined with his marketing insight and rigor, make him someone who exemplifies the ideals and principles of the Valley AMA.”

Sarah Butzen
Valley AMA Communications Chair