Carbondale to launch its own stimulus plan
September 17, 2009
CARBONDALE – Longtime local business leader and Village Smithy restaurant founder Chris Chacos was so enthusiastic about a fun new business promotion at a Tuesday town council work session that he couldn’t resist invoking President Obama’s “Are you fired up!?” rally cry.
Carbondale trustees were also generally keen to putting $30,000 toward a three-month local economic stimulus plan designed to drum up business during the lead-up to the holiday season.
The town was asked to pony up for the campaign, where Carbondale business customers will receive one ticket for every $25 transaction to be put into a drawing for a variety of prizes put up by local businesses, including an electric car as a grand prize.
Participants would also receive tickets for donations made to Carbondale-based nonprofit organizations.
“The idea is to get everyone on board to unite for a common purpose and create more of a community identity,” said Carol Bruno, owner of Peppino’s Pizza.
Added Terry Kirk, owner of Sopris Liquors on Highway 133, “We want to unite the whole business community, whether you’re downtown on Main Street or out on Highway 133.”
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Businesses located just outside of town limits would also be asked to participate, he said.
“A lot of our Latino businesses are also included … and tickets will be printed in both English and Spanish,” he said.
Kirk pointed to a recent community survey which indicated that only 12 cents of every dollar spent by Carbondale-area residents is spent in Carbondale.
“Our idea is to keep some more of that money here, and also try to bring some people from the rest of the valley and from outside the valley into town,” he said.
Town Manager Tom Baker said the money to help pay for prizes and advertising could come from a variety of unspent budget line items. But he warned the board to temper any expectations that the campaign could bring town sales tax revenues back into the black for the year.
“We are trying to be proactive about this particular time, and this economy,” said Baker, who helped the business groups put together the proposal.
The proposal, put forth by the Downtown Preservation Association, the Carbondale Chamber and the Carbondale Council on Arts and Humanities (CCAH), comes as the town saw another 14.5 percent decline is sales taxes for July.
The numbers were better than June, when sales taxes were down more than 21 percent compared to last year.
But the slide continues. For the year, Carbondale is anticipating sales taxes will be down as much as 18 percent compared to last year.
“This is a great idea, and I think it has a lot of merit,” Trustee Ed Cortez said. “It’s a perfect example of a community partnership.”
Local tax watchdog Lynn Burton, who attended the meeting, said the campaign sounded like “a great idea.” But he questioned the use of tax dollars to support it.
“Somebody has to say it,” he said. “Over the last five to 10 years the town has spent about $200,000 on economic development … I don’t see how a single dime of that was well-spent.”
Already this year, Carbondale has put about $1,600 toward a valley-wide “shop local” radio advertising campaign organized by chambers of commerce from Aspen to Rifle.
It also agreed to contribute $10,000 this year and $12,500 in each of the next two years to support the new Roaring Fork Business Resource Center. The center will serve as a referral agency for new and existing businesses to tap into a variety of available programs to help them succeed.
The Town Council will take formal action on funding the local business promotion at a future meeting.