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Uecker: Lure big boxes to Ripon
Mayor wants city to be more business friendly
Ripon Mayor Dean Uecker, right, greets friend and fellow veteran Rodney McCleary at Ripon VFW Post 1051. - photo by HIME ROMERO

Dean Uecker sat among many of California’s new mayors last month and gave himself to the promise and potential filling the room.

He listened, made a few notes and allowed his mind to wander.

He dared to dream big.

When it was all said and done, Uecker left the League of Cities’ New Mayors and Council Members Academy in Sacramento that afternoon with a “dream list,” a few soft suggestions for the City of Ripon and its business sector.

Uecker believes the city isn’t doing enough to boost commerce within its city limits. He wants a dual-purpose focus that 1) supports existing business and 2) encourages new business ventures of the small and big-box variety.

He has yet to discuss any of the ideas with the city council or city staff, though new council members Leo Zuber and Jacob Parks accompanied Uecker to the meet-and-greet.

For now, it’s one man’s vision; notes scrawled on a piece of stationary.

Except that stationary belongs to the mayor.

“We need to be more business friendly,” Uecker said matter-of-factly.

At the very top of his dream list: a concierge of sorts at City Hall to walk new business owners through the permitting process.

Too many times, he says, prospective business owners get caught in the “bureaucracy” of applying for a business license. To receive a license, business owners may also be required to file for a building permit, certificate of occupancy or use permit..

It can be a daunting task, one made easier with a guide.

Uecker, who runs Farmers Insurance on Main Street, says he has a client that waited six months for a business license -- a process he believes shouldn’t have taken more than two.

“That’s four months without any kind of cash flow,” he said, noting that the city may benefit from having a person to expedite the process.

Uecker did not indicate whether his vision called for a new hire or filling the position from within.

“You could appoint somebody to be a concierge to walk people through the system,” he said. “... There’s no reason to start a business on a sour note.”

His second “dream” includes a shopping landscape that includes a balance of local shops and commercial retailers.

“I don’t know if we’re quite big enough in our growth to get bigger stores,” Uecker said. “We’d love to get a Target.”

Wal-Mart submitted plans to develop the property near the Jack Tone Road interchange, where Canal Street Grille and the Tractor Supply Company currently exist, but ...

“They (picked) a lot right next to a housing tract,” said Uecker, who wasn’t on the council at the time of the push. “It wasn’t a good fit.”

Uecker believes the council should have worked with Wal-Mart to find a better location, if only to keep the sales tax revenue in town.

Generally, property and sales taxes contribute the most to the general fund of a California city. For instance, sales tax is the No. 1 source of revenue in Manteca. One percent of all gross sales are funneled back into the general fund. When Wal-Mart opened in the early 1990s along Highway 120, it produced approximately $20 million in gross sales.

The City of Manteca’s cut: $2 million.

In December 2010, the Ripon city council amended its Development Code (Title 16), which loosened many of the requirements and restrictions on a big-box retailer.

Uecker believes the City of Ripon needs to continue to find ways to attract and integrate new business.

Dream big, he says.

“I’d like to see us do some kind of incentive program. I’ve had three or four businesses ask me if we could somehow stretch fees out so they could come into town. It all comes down whether it’s affordable,” Uecker said. “That’s where the tax dollars come from.”