When trying to identify the more lucent and rational arguments against the beautification of north Monroe, one that stands out is businesses losing customers during construction – a legitimate concern, for certain, and one Spokane City Council, the Mayor’s office, and bureaucrats at City Hall have opportunities to address.
Here are several ideas to provide relief to businesses along north Monroe and any business corridor, for that matter, when street construction occurs. If City Hall makes it a goal that not one business will close as a direct result of construction, it can be done.
Write a Quality Traffic Control Plan
It starts with how you set up all those orange cones and traffic control devises that coordinate where traffic and people can meander through the construction zone. Whether the traffic control plans are devised by the general contractor or devised by city staff, there’s room for improvement, so much so that many local businesses would prefer not to have public investments in front of their shops because the city’s traffic control plans are so insensitive to their practical needs.
All of the money we’re investing in streets, beautification, and infrastructure is a great thing, but after several seasons’ worth of implementing insensitive traffic control plans, the city has given business owners a legitimate gripe. We need to up our game and incorporate easy-access to businesses as a foundational value that must be planned for and coordinated when streets are under construction.
Sales Tax Rebates
Nothing says “we got your back” like cold, hard cash. Tax relief can sure help ease the burden during construction. The city’s sales tax rate is 2.3%. It’s simple enough to pass an ordinance that provides sales tax relief for all businesses for the duration of construction. It may not cover their entire loss of business, but its monetary relief will not go unnoticed.
Property Tax Rebates
Same goes for property tax. There’s a wrinkle, however, because not all businesses own the space they’re located within. Nonetheless, with a little analysis and some simple calculations, a determination can be made about the value of property tax relief.
Utility Fee Rebates
Water, sewer, and garbage fees can be a fairly significant monthly invoice for commercial establishments. Forgiving all those fees for the duration of construction will provide for meaningful cost savings to individual businesses.
Develop a Marketing Strategy for Construction Corridors
The city has an opportunity to lead a marketing strategy that encourages customers to patronize business in construction zones.
For instance, chambers of commerce, neighborhood organizations, even Kiwanis and Rotary clubs can be activated to target spending within corridors under construction. Our local elected leaders and many city staff already sit on or generally participate in any number of local civic organizations. Staff and elected officials regularly attend neighborhood meetings and there’s no harm in asking citizens to support local businesses. Email blasts or social media campaigns from our local chambers of commerce that point their membership networks to support businesses in construction zones is a real value-added service that GSI, DSP, Visit Spokane, West Plains Chamber, and Valley Chamber can provide to our local shop owners.
It almost goes without saying, but obviously coordinated press releases and social media strategies from City Hall urging residents to support local business in constructions zones is a no-brainer. Elected leaders doggedly reminding whoever will listen to support businesses within construction zones can make a big difference.
Folks with marketing minds finer than mine could dream up any number of low cost, creative communication strategies to help motivate residents to support businesses within construction zones. The point is, it’s time for staff and leadership at City Hall to actually do it.
The horror stories of businesses nearly closing as a result of street construction are now returning to haunt City Hall, as well they should. That’s the bad news. The good news is solutions abound. With a little leadership and creativity from City Council and the Mayor’s office, the city can play a significant role to relieve financial stress on our local businesses due to street construction.