For most of the past three decades, Richard Barney has promoted or marketed Southern Oregon businesses and groups.

For most of the past three decades, Richard Barney has promoted or marketed Southern Oregon businesses and groups.

Now the longtime advertising, media, promotions and sales consultant has come full circle by being named executive director for the Heart of Medford Association, a position he first held in 1981.

During his first go-round with the Heart of Medford Association, the downtown core was still the city's primary retail area, offering department stores and many smaller retailers. The Rogue Valley Mall was still five years from existence.

As Barney recalls, the association had 20 members at the time.

"The biggest challenge at that time was air quality," said Barney, who follows recently retired Betsy Manuel.

Today, there are 150 Heart of Medford Association members, led by a 10-member board chaired by John David Duffie.

The business advocacy group has two primary goals: increase participation and cooperation of businesses in the downtown area and attract foot traffic.

"With what's going on with the (RCC/SOU) educational center and the Commons project, the face of downtown is changing," Barney said. "It's a transformational time and it's going to be different in the future. We've got to make sure we're going in the right direction and bring the different forces together, get on the same page and build a sustainable downtown base."

Rather than seeing a revival of the historical downtown department stores, Barney anticipates growth in specialty and destination shops as well as entertainment and restaurants.

A key element will be promoting residential growth and activity downtown.

"Retail will grow in support of residential activity," he said.

Barney will oversee HMA's Main Street program and its role in transportation management.

"We want to find out what (the downtown businesses') needs are and how they fit in, bring them to the table and address their needs," he said. "Every individual business has their own needs, but there is a group dynamic as well. We will talk about what group efforts will help individuals as well as the whole."

Barney has operated a marketing business for the past 15 years, with Southern Oregon Speedway as his primary client for much of that span. He also counts Lava Lanes and Donnelly's Sport Bar & Grill, along with Inpho Information on Hold messaging service and the Pear Blossom Festival Association as clients. Previously Barney was involved in local radio for more than 15 years, rising to general manager at KYJC.

Among his present roles, he is chairman of the Pear a Fare committee, which is orchestrating the in-restaurant "Dare to Pear Challenge" and "Pear a Fare" event that will offer locally produced wines, brews and artisan foods in Alba Park on Pear Blossom weekend.

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or e-mail business@mailtribune.com.