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Lathrop makes $24K chamber deal to help lure new businesses
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LATHROP – The City of Lathrop is awarding the Lathrop District Chamber of Commerce a $24,000 contract that will also serve as a lifeline. 

The city, though, expects to get something in return.

Monday night the Lathrop City Council unanimously voted to partner with Mary Kennedy-Bracken and her staff at the chamber to provide business development services on a contract basis at a cost not to exceed $24,000. It is a move that will help the struggling organization stay afloat and give the city an additional tool in its quiver to bring businesses to the community.

The only clause added by the council will require the chamber to provide the city with their annual financial audit in February of 2013 to ensure that everything is in good order.

In a day and age when cities up and down the valley are fighting for any addition to their tax base they can get, Councilman Omar Ornelas believes the move will be beneficial to all involved.

“I think that there’s a couple of ways to look at this. One is what they do and what they’re there for – their sole priority is to attract new businesses and focus on business retention and making the city a business friendly place,” he said. “They have no government ties in terms of what they can do – they can do things that we can’t and pursue in manners that we can’t. And they do a great job with the mixers and events they host like the State of the City every year.

“Lastly their presence is important. They said that without the help they’ll have to shut down, and that would look very bad as a city. In the end it’s essential to the city and the businesses.”

And it’s not all that uncommon for cities to help the chamber with funding subsidies in order to get the best possible service for the community.

In Tracy’s annual budget the local chamber receives $48,000. Ripon has allocated $9,100 each of the last two years. Manteca over six years ago dropped their annual stipend while Lodi gives just over $2,000 but also contributes to Lodi’s Downtown Business Partnership and the Conference and Visitor Bureau.

As per the agreement approved by the council, the chamber must prepare a “Welcome to Lathrop” program designed to get all new residents and businesses acquainted with the city, and inform them of the city’s upcoming projects.

They also need to set $1,000 aside for the Lathrop Youth Chamber to help fund the programs that are offered to those who choose to participate.

The influx, according to Kennedy-Bracken, will help with the effort to bring additional businesses to the community and will provide for programs like seminars, webinars and other enhancement tools.

“The benefit that I see out of this is the partnership – working together closely with the city,” she said. “We’ve never collaborated on anything like this before, and it enables both of us to draw business to the City of Lathrop. Without their support we could have continued to struggle.

“Now we’ll be on the same page.”