BID: We need to market to survive | TahoeDailyTribune.com

BID: We need to market to survive

Jan McCarthy

I would like to express some more realistic facts regarding why many businesses got together to create the Business Improvement District to help stop the decline that has plagued local business since 1990.

Let me start by reiterating what I have said at two BID meetings: If our community was a “steel mill” town, and that steel mill closed up one day, everyone would immediately see the town was going to die a quick death! Doctors, lawyers, motel and gas station owners would run out of town knowing what was ahead!

It would be clear that everyone’s business would be negatively affected because the vast majority of locals would be leaving to find work. They would take their families with them – churches and schools would suffer fatal blows also. Starting to sound familiar?

The difference with our community is that our industry, tourism, has been dying a slow death for many years. We didn’t feel it on one specific day – it’s been happening for the last 15 years.

As you drive around town, check out the open space available everywhere. When we lose business, we lose locals. Without locals, no business can survive. Every business is affected, whether or not it services tourists.

I understand the majority of our firefighters and police officers live off the hill; that the majority of our city workers, casino workers, and other employees in our community live off the hill. Entire families go to other schools, other churches, other grocery stores, other doctors, other gas stations, other lawyers, and on and on.

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Why has this happened to us?

It used to be that gambling was only legal in Nevada – and Lake Tahoe had a captured market. Now there is gambling in 48 states, on cruise ships and in other countries. Travel has become so much easier that people want to vary their vacation experiences.

Time shares have added to some of those changes as well. They allow travelers to own a vacation interest and exchange it anywhere in the world for free.

Notice that even with the time share resorts here, motels/hotels still don’t fill up, except on Saturdays. If the time share resorts were gone – those businesses would also be suffering more than they are today.

Ask the city how many motels have changed ownership hands in just the last five years. It’s a huge number, because new owners think they can do it better but have not grasped the problems in our community. How many motels have gone to renting their rooms to locals because they have the dream that our old “wave” of business will be back?

The first businesses to leave our community were the gas stations. Those of you who were here in the “old days” know there were four times the gas stations in our community. Since those companies have no vested interest in our community, the minute they saw the numbers dropping, they left town. The few gas stations left have benefited and we applaud those businesses for their luck.

So we are stuck! Those of us who want to stay need to market our community like never before. Hence the creation of the BID to try to do something.

Pat Martin (a doctor), John Cefalu (a gas station owner), and Lori London (an attorney) all who are on the BID committee and against the BID for marketing purposes, have not spent $1 bringing any tourist to this community, yet they are screaming the loudest about the BID. They have done nothing to bring one single local family here by way of bringing in new business. They live on the coattails of others who do the advertising to bring people here.

The only way locals will return to our community is to bring in more business!

I find it so interesting that these three people have no problem with the BID if the money went for gutters and sidewalks. They just don’t see that gutters and sidewalks could also be done if our community had more business, which would be a benefit to city coffers.

And this crazy thinking that lodging properties aren’t paying real money to the BID, that it’s just a pass-through from the $1.50 we have to add to each room’s night stay on top of the 10 percent and 12 percent the local motels/hotels are paying is just ludicrous! We are the ones spending our money to advertise! How much money does Dr. Pat Martin, John Cefalu or Lori London pay to advertise to bring people to this community? John Cefalu is the only one paying anything and it’s in his gas tax that the city gets a portion of. We pay more than that in just our TOT tax alone. But add in our advertising moneys, the TOT and the $1.50 per night stay and we are paying more than our fair share!

None of these people came to the rescue of the city when it couldn’t meet its budget a few years ago, but lodging did. This extra $1.50 above our TOT gained us nothing, except keeping the city alive. That $1.50 per night went directly into the city’s budget to alleviate the shortfall. What moneys does Pat Martin, John Cefalu or Lori London pay to help the city’s budget? I bet they didn’t even attend a meeting on the issue.

This is selfishness in its truest form, especially when 75 percent of all local businesses would only pay $30 to the BID.

All we want is to keep the weeds down in front of any more businesses that have closed up. Everyone has a stake in this problem: the schools feel it, the churches feel it and all the businesses in between feel it. Let’s get to work on fixing the problem instead of whining about having to actually help this city for a change.

– Jan McCarthy is general manager of the Stardust Lodge, Americana Village, the Tahoe Colony Inn and other commercial properties.

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