KINGSBURG – In an effort to promote, market and sponsor more events in Downtown Kingsburg, local business owners are looking to start a business improvement district.
Two local business owners involved in the effort brought their case to the April 4 City Council meeting to clarify their goals.
“It’s our responsibility to market the downtown,” local Realtor Steve Safarjian said. “If the downtown thrives, so does our town. It’s our responsibility and we’d like to take it in our hands to try and do that.”
The move comes after a group of economic and city planning advisers with the Community Planning Assistance Team suggested in April 2017 that a business improvement association be set up to actively promote and market community events to draw visitors.
Since then, consultant Mike Dozier has met with property owners to hear their concerns about forming a new association. After trips to Clovis and Visalia to hear how those cities’ downtown business associations have worked, the issue was formerly addressed at a Council meeting.
Safarjian said their goal is to not supplant the local Chamber of Commerce, but rather to complement their efforts.
“The Chamber does a great job of putting on the Festivals and welcoming businesses. We’d like to take this one step further and make Downtown even better by complementing them and assisting them,” Safarjian said.
Safarjian said area businesses owners have been contacted initially, but they wanted the City’s input before proceeding.
“It’s our job now to go out and research and help others understand before they get a ballot to voice their opinion.”
City Manager Alex Henderson said if the businesses in the district approve forming the association, the City would collect extra business license fees from them which would be stored in a separate fund. Those funds would be controlled by the BID’s own board.
Berman’s Flowers co-owner Leslie Carpenter also spoke to the Council on the matter. After seeing how similar efforts are successful in other Valley towns, Carpenter said she thinks the same concept would work locally.
“[Business Organization of Old Town Clovis] is so successful. I can’t tell you how many Sundays their downtown is closed [to traffic] because they’re having something and all those merchants are making money that day. It’s on us to make ourselves successful,” she said.
Carpenter also suggested other events such as waiters’ races and hair-cutting competitions that could draw local and out-of-town visitors to Draper Street. Rather than a single business attempting to host and market such an event, a larger audience could be reached if businesses coordinate together, she said.
“It’s simply a group of us strategizing together and learning from each other about how to make all of us prosperous. We can be prosperous for the City so people are proud to come downtown. People in Visalia and Clovis are proud to go downtown. I want that back here. I’m not even on Draper, but that’s how much I believe in this.”
Henderson said the BID promoters will continue talking with local merchants about forming such a district. The proposal will be brought back to council to formalize the legal process.
“It’s up to the group how they want to structure it,” he said regarding the fee amounts and the formation of a board of directors.