Gilroy better worry about new outlets

As a community, Gilroy should be worried about the huge, brand-spanking-new outlet mall opening in Livermore.

The outlets are the sales tax revenue lifeblood for Gilroy, generating $2.73 million or 23.6 percent of the city’s total sales tax revenue in 2011. If that number sinks by 20%, and there are no other major revenue streams to supplant the loss, then the city will have to chop the budget. 

“I think they are far enough away that there isn’t a lot of angst here that they will create competition,” said Susan Valenta, Gilroy’s Chamber of Commerce CEO.  

That could very well be true. But it’s far better to plan for the worst and hope for the best. 

It’s possible that the local election results will bring good news for business development. Regardless, the Gilroy Economic Development Corporation led by President Tammy Brownlow, in concert with the City Council and the Chamber, should focus on broadening our economic base, retail or otherwise, and make it a priority to up the ante when it comes to keeping the Gilroy outlets attractive. 

Outgoing Councilman Bob Dillon has wondered aloud about landing a hugely popular Bass Pro Shop to complement the outlets. It’s a good thought. And what about miniature golf, a movie complex or a cart racing track? It’s all about enhancing the shopping experience with more options to ensure that Gilroy’s outlets remain a competitive destination.

Paragon Outlets will make a big push in Livermore, a push that could eat into our tour bus company and international traveler business which Gilroy’s Welcome Center Director Jane Howard believes is an important piece to the outlet revenue puzzle. 

Like South County, the outlets in Livermore are close to wineries. The downtown area far exceeds our downtown, however, and there’s a fabulous food court on site. 

Maybe there won’t be an impact. Maybe there are enough hungry shoppers to go around and the tried-and-true location of the Gilroy outlets make our center bullet proof. 

On the other hand, maybe there are things this community can do to help the outlets continue to thrive. 

It’s time for an ounce of prevention instead of a pound of cure. The groups charged with our community’s economic well being need to get down to business.

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