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A More Competitive Approach

During Thursday's City Council meeting, Canton Main Street Program Director Ginger Garrard proposed a rental assistance program that would bring businesses, vibrancy to the city's struggling downtown. Here's the text of her presentation.

We all recognize that the City’s ability to deliver quality municipal services is dependent on adequate tax revenues derived primarily from the properties and businesses located within the city. Healthy, thriving businesses not only increase property, sales and bed taxes, but they also provide employment opportunities that support local businesses. To preserve and improve the quality of life for Canton residents, there is a need to balance economic development objectives with protection of the environment and the health and safety of our community.

As a local government we know that downtown commercial districts are essential to a community’s economic health. More than shopping destinations, they are employment centers, visitor’s attractions, tax generators and historic cores. 

Donavon Rypkema of PlaceEconomics, LLC in Washington, DC, and author of Good News in Tough Times: Historic Preservation and the Georgia Economy cites some facts.

Downtowns are industry! Did you know that 100 percent of all net job growth in America since December 2001 has been within firms employing fewer than 50 people. On a cumulative basis, companies bigger than 50 employees have not added a single job in the past decade! If small firms had cut jobs at the same rate as the giants there would be another 3,868,000 unemployed people today. Eighty-seven percent of all businesses in Georgia employ fewer than 20 people. Small businesses are the hottest topic across the state. That’s because local and state leaders are recognizing that downtowns reflect the overall image a community projects to potential investors. An invigorated downtown makes a very positive statement about the whole community.

Revitalization provides a point of focus and stability. A vibrant downtown gives the whole community and region a sense of pride and positive self-image. It also serves as an anchor that holds the community together and provides the stability necessary for economic growth. A healthy downtown attracts new businesses, creates jobs, and strengthens service and retail markets. By recruiting new businesses, dollars that would be spent elsewhere are spent locally.

and it needs it now. It needs public investment of dollars in order to attract additional private investment. Strengthening the economic foundation of downtown Canton is critical.

How many of you have seen the giant sign at (the) Riverstone entrance?

6 months FREE rent

The developers want those spaces filled, and they are willing to do whatever it takes to get those storefronts up and running.

It is time for Canton to take a more competitive approach to downtown economic development. Canton needs to stand apart from other cities in order to compete for new businesses. It’s that simple.

“In these challenging economic times in which jobs are portable, we must do more to compete,” Deal said. “It is my goal to make Georgia the No. 1 state in which to do business”.

Viable downtowns offer opportunities and incentives for new businesses. We also need to offer opportunities and incentives, but we need to go beyond that. We need to devise creative methods to support small businesses. Investing in downtown will yield a very high rate of return and helping small businesses will ultimately pay big dividends in growth and prosperity for the entire City of Canton.

The Canton Main Street Program has been working on an incentive program for new businesses locating in the downtown district in the form of rental assistance.

This presentation has been planned for weeks, so you can imagine my reaction when I spotted the Riverstone sign this morning.

But this is real community development, where you take a dollar and reinvest it back into the community so that the community gets the benefit of its own wealth and expenditure.

This rental assistance program is designed to create or stimulate private investment in the designated Canton Main Street district, which is the downtown commercial business district.

The expected outcome is to create employment opportunities, save existing jobs, provide services and products, develop and strengthen new and existing businesses, acquire, preserve properties and create a stronger tax base.

Funding for this program? Well we all know it’s not in the budget, but what if I told you there is an untapped source of revenue that could fund this Rental Assistance Program. Canton Main Street is asking you to approve this funding to be used as such. Earmark the monies and Canton Main Street can administer the program for recruiting small businesses into downtown. I promise, you won’t regret this. It’s a win, win for the entire City of Canton. We increase our tax base and at the same time improve the quality of life for Canton residents. No one loses here. It’s time to step up and make a commitment to an earnest economic development program that is competitive with surrounding cities. Please approve the use of this revenue to the betterment of the entire City.

This revenue, this untapped revenue is a 3 percent rental car excise tax that the City of Canton is not currently collecting. See O.C.G.A.48-13-93.

These cities take advantage of this excise tax:

  • Cartersville,
  • Woodstock,
  • Johns Creek,
  • Atlanta,
  • Kennesaw,
  • Milton,
  • Marietta
  • and the list goes on.

The funds must be used for commerce, industry, trade and tourism or capital outlay projects.

Enterprise Rental Car—$1.6 million in sales. That equates to $48,000 in revenue for this program.

RENTAL CAR FACILITIES IN CANTON

1. , amount of sales unavailable, 950 Old Ball Ground Hwy, 770-479-7007

2. , $1,617,367 in sales, 180 Riverstone Pkwy. Ste. 100, 770-479-7754

3. , amount of sales unavailable, 301 Liberty Blvd., 770-704-9525

Source: Canton Main Street Program

For more information on the proposed rental assistance program, open the attached PDF under the photo with this story.

Kristen Jones February 03, 2012 at 11:24 PM
I must say raising taxes in a down economy is not a wise decision. Rather we should consider an overall merge with the county. We put money into a golf course and the YMCA and the reservoir, and that did not bring people here. Government cannot afford any more investing in downtown, its reality. People go to Woodstock and Roswell because they have the space and the appeal. If mainstreet profits it will be from private sector investing, not tax dollars.
Shawn Webb February 04, 2012 at 10:59 AM
I agree with Kristen. Canton doen't have a good track record of picking "winners". How about actually doing something within a government's scope like taking steps aimed at cleaning up downtown and the surrounding areas? That simple move might make downtown more desireable to business and visitor alike.
Kristen Jones February 04, 2012 at 03:58 PM
Shawn we hope to see you Monday at 7:00 city hall to hear more ideas!

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