Guest View: Councilman urges strong support go to local business
Your city council, at its Feb. 12 meeting, considered several proposals to assist local business, and at the same time were intent to improve the aesthetics of our community.
One was to allow local businesses that bid on city contracts a 5 percent advantage over out-of-town bidders. I support this idea on several grounds. The first is that we just plain and simple should support our local businesses and their local employees. Equally important is the fact that in many cases, it costs more to do business locally. We are far removed from the mainstream advantages of a big city, shipping costs are an issue, and we lack easy access to wholesale markets. A similar business in a big city is likely to be a larger business, with greater economies of scale. With a larger market, they are often able to take advantage of large-scale purchase discounts and other manufacturer-offered incentives that simply are not always available to our smaller, local merchants. Lastly, but also important, is that on local sales, there is the all-important factor of trickle-down benefits. The local business pays the local employee, who then shops locally ” you know the story: Each dollar changes hands in the local economy many times rather then being lost in the out-of-town market.
Another issue being considered is a reduction of building and improvement fees for local businesses that want to remodel and improve their property. It seems to me that the city as a whole wins when a property owner makes their property more attractive. First, it usually means more business; second, it creates a project that reduces the environmental impact and improves the overall attractiveness of our town. Under the proposal submitted, the suggestion was a 5 percent discount; it is my view that this is not enough to move a person to action.
Two recent examples of businesses that made improvements, which were greatly appreciated, were on highways 50 and 89. In one case, the project permit costs were $2,500; a 50 percent discount, for example, would have meant a savings to them of $1,250. And with the other, the cost was $1,400; they would have saved $700. I would support a program that went as high as 100 percent, if the project would make a major improvement to both the business and the community, and the discount would in fact be spent on the improvements. A system, perhaps, where an owner could submit his ideas to the Planning Commission, a public hearing would be held and the community can decide if it wants to spend its money to improve its environment. It is hoped that these kinds of savings would encourage and support others to make more aesthetic, environmental and efficiency improvements to their property.
By giving a real break in fees or even a complete waiver is not a bad investment for the city, either. Why? Well, if the business does better, then sales-tax revenue increases and, as a matter of fact, the county will automatically increase the assessed valuation of the property and the city benefits by a large property-tax contribution. Thus, while there may be a short-term loss of permit income, there is a long-term gain, an investment, if you will, in ourselves that will pay out over the years, a good investment for all. The real winner is the community that gets improved, better-looking and more environmentally sound buildings and business. I would be the first to admit that aesthetics are important to me ” it represents pride in our city.
An additional element to support that I would like to see is the inclusion of public art in new and improvement projects ” not necessarily required in small projects, but encouraged. But certainly required in larger projects like Safeway or Project 3. Public art truly reflects, in my view, the heart of a community, its soul. Art appreciation and the subsequent support of the arts community creates not only beauty, but demonstrates a higher-quality style of living for the town.
” Ted Long is a member of the South Lake Tahoe City Council.
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