Business, tourism arms hope to flex monetary muscle

 

A haven for new businesses, a destination with a vibrant
downtown and the next Napa
– Gilroy can be all these things, according to representatives
of three local organizations.
A haven for new businesses, a destination with a vibrant downtown and the next Napa – Gilroy can be all these things, according to representatives of three local organizations.

With a little extra financial help from the City of Gilroy, they can happen sooner than once thought, they said.

“I don’t think there’s any reason why we can’t aspire to that,” said Jane Howard, executive director of the Gilroy Visitors Bureau.

The visitors bureau, Gilroy Economic Development Corporation and Gilroy Downtown Business Association all could receive extra boosts to their bank accounts if the Gilroy City Council approves an amended draft budget that would send more than $1 million to the organizations during the next two fiscal years.

The visitors bureau originally stood to receive $200,000 a year for the next two years, but that total has been upped to $300,000 during the May 9 study session. The EDC, which has garnered $96,000 each of the past two years, saw its projected stipend rise from $160,000 to $200,000.

The budget draft also includes $20,000 per year to allow the Downtown Business Association to hire a part-time executive director and pay for holiday and general event banners.

Leaders from those three groups said the extra funding will allow Gilroy to capitalize on recent momentum, including rises in sales tax revenues and movements toward revitalizing downtown.

“We really are positioned right now to be ahead of the game. We’re coming out of this pretty nicely. We can really be where other cities are not at this time,” Howard said. “We’re continuing to be cautiously optimistic.”

With its outlet shopping centers and wineries growing in popularity, Gilroy has an opportunity to be in same breath as Napa and grow in popularity with a recent influx of Australian and Canadian visitors to the state, Howard said.

“We can capture some of that market,” she said. “It’s about having specific dollars available to do specific outreach.”

More people are visiting Gilroy, and, more importantly, staying overnight, Howard said.

Transient occupancy taxes – paid form overnight stays at hotels and motels – are going up, she said, as the city’s draft budget projects almost a 13 percent increase during the next fiscal year.

EDC President Tammy Brownlow said the additional city funds would allow the organization to market and attract more businesses and their jobs to Gilroy.

“Right now, we have a very limited amount of money we can use for marketing and attraction,” Brownlow said. “To have it not only brought back to that level and beyond our request is just huge for the organization.”

Of the funds going to the downtown business association, $13,500 will go toward the executive director’s salary – which the DBA will match – and the remaining $6,500 will buy the banners, said Eric Howard, association president and nephew of Jane Howard.

Once the money is approved, a downtown committee will craft a timeline for filling the executive director position, which would plan and manage downtown events, be a liaison between the City of Gilroy and downtown business and serve as an advocate for downtown on myriad issues.

He said as of now, all events are planned and operated by downtown business owners on a volunteer basis.

“People do a great job then they burned out, and the association has to start all over again,” Eric Howard said. “We need someone who is able to do the time-consuming things.”

Like the visitors bureau and EDC, Downtown Gilroy can be a revenue source for the city, he said.

“What it comes down to is we need to prove them they’re getting their money’s worth,” he said. “Once they realize what they’re getting a return on investment, they’ll hopefully fund a full-time position.”

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