A homegrown effort eschewing reliance on expensive consultant studies to devise a game plan to bolster business is moving forward to not just pump up economic activity in downtown but to pursue job development throughout Manteca working with existing businesses and those seeking to locate here.
The effort is being cobbled together by the Economic Development Committee championed by Mayor Steve DeBrum and embraced by his council colleagues.
Potential strategies they have outlined so far that will be reviewed when the committe meets next Wednesday include:
Developing a façade improvement program to provide financial assistant to property/and or business owners through matching grants to make exterior building improvements.
Retaining the services of a consultant specifically to prepare improvement plans for Yosemite Avenue from Main Street to the railroad tracks in a bid to create a user friendly environment with wide sidewalks to encourage pedestrian circulation, improve traffic circulation and accommodate outside dining experiences along with narrower lanes to discourage speeding.
creating a Microenterprise Loan Program to assist entrepreneurs with small business startups or for special projects or equipment.
developing wayfinding signage to help direct out-of-town visitors to key destinations such as the BMX track, Big League Dreams, hospitals, courthouse, golf course/tennis center, downtown, and other destinations.
installing year-round tree lighting to enhance the ambiance of downtown in the evening.
Assessing the long-term strategy of moving the civic center to the Library Park area to support downtown economic development.
Creating downtown design guidelines and establish a downtown design committee to approve all façade improvements within the downtown district.
Designating a municipal staff person as the downtown liaison to be a point of contact for the downtown business and property owners and to assist with various programs and strategies.
Assisting the downtown businesses to form a Business Improvement District to collect a special assessment that would be available to downtown property owners to provide services beyond what the city can offer.
Assisting downtown businesses to create a marketing plan with the goal of bringing people to downtown including special events, messaging, and social media presence.
Performing broker benchmarking to create a base benchmark with which to compare year over year improvements in vacancy rates and to assist with marketing available properties.
Assisting the downtown businesses with an ambassador program to assist with business retention, business-to-business relationships, and business mentoring.
Performing a parking assessment to evaluate whether there is adequate parking available in the downtown area.
Continuing to rehabilitate the downtown public parking lots and alleys to current American with Disabilities Act and city standards.
Reviewing and revising downtown zoning as needed to meet the needs and goals of downtown businesses and property owners as well as the city.
DeBrum and the council were frustrated that an economic development reserve fund created more than three years ago wasn’t being put to work under previous city managers to improve Manteca.
Working with City Manager Tim Odgen and Economic Development specialist Don Smail, a seven-member City of Manteca Economic Development Committee was formed by the council consisting of private and public sector members charged with being involved with the economic, social and suitable well-being of the commercial and industrial employers already here or planning to locate to Manteca plus other related issues the council may ask them to explore.
The council on the advice of then City Manager Karen McLaughlin created the economic development reserve fund more than three years ago to funnel the residual property tax from the redevelopment agency property taxes.
The money is the city’s share of property tax that would have gone to the RDA. Without the RDA that money would have continued to flow to the general fund between the mid-1980s when the agency was formed and until it was disbanded several years ago by the state.
McLaughlin viewed this as “new money” that could replace the economic stimulus function of the shuttered RDA after noting “we got along fine without the money” for years. It is money, if the city had access to it instead of it being diverted to the RDA that would have paid for day-to-day government services such as police, fire and streets.
When the economic revitalization fund was created, the annual RDA residual was $800,000 a year. It is now at $1.2 million a year and will continue to grow as property values increase on impacted properties that were once part of the RDA.
Under the new council reserve policy excess money coming from the residual tax from property in the former RDA boundaries will go into undesignated reserves when the economic development reserve reaches $2.5 million in a given fiscal year.
The next meeting of the economic development committee is Wednesday, Aug. 8, at 3 p.m. in the council chambers at the Civic Center, 1001 W. Center St.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, email email@example.com.