LATHROP – Last year the Lathrop Chamber of Commerce was on the verge of closing its doors.
The recession had hit local businesses hard. Membership was down. And while growth was on the horizon for the city, commercial developers – those building shopping centers and restaurants – were looking for more rooftops than what Lathrop had to offer.
And that’s when the City of Lathrop stepped in.
With a $24,000 contract for what has been classified as professional business development services, the chamber was able to survive and has since rebounded to serve as the city’s largest cheerleader to those looking to locate along the I-5 corridor.
Last week the Lathrop City Council voted to once again sign a 12-month contract with the city for $24,000 that will provide the same services – groundbreakings, ribbon cuttings, job fairs and the management of an economic development council – through the end of the next fiscal year.
Councilman Steve Dresser, who abstained from voting on the measure, wasn’t sure that doling out money to the chamber was the best way to distribute local funds.
The report that chamber CEO Mary Kennedy-Bracken prepared for the council, he said, didn’t provide a breakdown of where the city’s money actually went – providing only a general layout of the chamber’s overall budget.
Having that information, in Dresser’s eyes, would have made it a little bit easier to decide to throw his support behind the organization.
“It’s hard to look at this and decide what kind of an impact we have because it’s all lumped together,” Dresser said. “Maybe the money the city gives you enables you to do 15 of the 20 things that you do every year, or maybe the chamber would already do 15 of those 20 things – there’s really no way of seeing that on here.”
The council asked for weekly updates from the chamber to keep tabs on business dealings and things that may be in the works. A quarterly newsletter published in magazine form is also planned – something that the organization would put into the welcome packed that’s distributed to all new businesses that come to town.
Spending the money, said Mayor Sonny Dhaliwal, wasn’t necessarily a clear-cut donation or a subsidy since new businesses that come to town will cover the money that’s put out through tax collections.
“The money that we give the chamber, that’s not to help them – it’s an investment,” he said. “That’s the taxpayers money, and the reason that I supported it last time is that I believe that we’ll get that money back when new businesses move in and tax revenues are collected and hopefully we get a lot more than what we’re giving to the chamber.
“Any time a prospective business owner is coming to town we always try to meet with them – whether it’s myself or somebody from the city. It’s shows them that we’re serious about business in our community, and that we’re since and we care.”