EDA evaluates hit-and-miss Business Reward program

By Per Peterson

The Tracy EDA last week worked to clarify the future of its Business Reward program.

The program, which offers a $5,000 incentive to new businesses in town, has been a topic of conversation for some time, as the question of whether or not it has run its course has been debated.

The program, the EDA decided, will continue, but will not be physically advertised around town, at least for the winter. For the 18-months the program has been going, there have been “reward” signs posted around town, but those signs will come down, and a fresh campaign will likely begin in the spring.

EDA member George Landuyt asked why would they want to end the program if the fate of a $5,000 reward lies with the board anyway.

“It’s not costing you … let’s say a business comes and doesn’t qualify — then they don’t get it,” he said. “It might not be working very well, but it must be working a little bit.”

EDA chair Dennis Fultz chimed in by saying he has noticed how the posted advertisements have lasted in various businesses for so long.

“In most cases after a month or two, the proprietor cleans off the boards and takes things down; it’s surprising the number of people who must feel it’s worth leaving up,” Fultz said. “It’s a program I’d hate to quit, cold turkey.”

EDA Director Jeff Carpenter saw both sides of the story — leaving the signs up would continue to advertise for the program, but taking them down and starting fresh in 2020 would potentially draw more attention to it.

EDA member Tony Peterson’s contention was that the program has not been as successful as anticipated and shared his concern about how to budget it for 2020.

“Until and when we can increase some of our revenues, I think we should just let it sit,” Peterson said. “Maybe take a year off — there’s nothing that says you can’t bring it back. It’s all subject to the board.”

The EDA discussed in length how to budget the program and decided to put a two-business cap on it —  it will pay out the second half of the reward to two businesses, plus one full reward. Any future potential rewards will be discussed as they normally would be, but might have to be budgeted in a new fiscal year.

“When you budget for two and you use those up and someone else asks, it’s just like going to a business and saying, ‘Would you donate,’ and they say, ‘I’m sorry, for this year we’ve used it up, but next year, come to us,’” EDA member Sis Beierman said. “What’s wrong with that? Then you know they’ve been in business and how they’re doing.”

Tracy interim City Administrator Shane Daniels said budgeting in the reward program won’t affect the city’s levy.

Carpenter said the program drew a lot of attention to Tracy, but admitted that taking the signs down for the time being might be the right thing to do.

“There were a lot of other cities — I can count three for sure — that called me and asked me for the information,” he said. “Having that paper sticking up on your board forever, sometimes you need to take it down and put it back up.”

Under the modified guidelines that have been discussed at previous meetings and approved at last week’s meeting, the reward money is to be paid in two increments — the first $2,500 after the end of 90 days of business,, and the second half to be paid at the end of 180 days of business. The disbursement will also require visits by the business owner to the EDA after 90 and 180 days to answer any questions the EDA might have and to prove work completion.