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Business by association

Submitted by on 1, October 20, 2009 – 6:00 am4 Comments

City leaders will be asked tonight to reduce the annual grants paid to three of the city’s local business associations, a move staff are characterizing as a step toward streamlining the organizations and decreasing their dependence on public money.

If okayed by the city’s Community Improvement Commission (aka the City Council wearing its redevelopment hat), grants to the Greater Alameda Business Association, the Park Street Business Association and the Webster Street Business Association would be cut by 5 percent this year and 15 percent the following year.

The grants would also be paid out on a reimbursement basis, and could only be used for marketing expenses.

“Over the next year, City staff will work with the City’s business associations to examine other ways to create efficiencies to lessen dependency on public dollars. These efficiencies may include sharing personnel, office space, overhead, and other yet-to-be-determined cost streamlining measures,” a city staff report signed by Economic Development Director Leslie Little said.

“The associations and the Economic Development Department staff would also like to evaluate ways to pool resources and function in a less “district” fashion and more in a citywide manner,” the report with the recommendation to cut the Park Street Business Association’s grant said.

Other efficiencies listed include consolidation of maintenance contracts for Park and Webster streets and of workshops for members of the Greater Alameda Business Association and the Alameda Chamber of Commerce.

The Park Street and West Alameda business associations are focused on the marketing and promotion of the city’s two “Main Street” areas, plus the two business districts’ maintenance and design. The Greater Alameda Business Association was created in 1986, when the chamber ran into financial difficulties and folded.

Park Street Business Association’s Robb Ratto said the cut, which this year would drop his grant by about $5,500, to $105,874, wouldn’t have much impact on his organization’s roughly $375,000 budget. He said the money would have been spent on advertising.

“We believe the city is getting the big bang for their buck with the kind of marketing that we do,” Ratto said.

The Greater Alameda Business Association’s Patty Jacobs said the $600 she’ll lose from her association’s $12,000 grant won’t have a huge impact on her organization, which has a budget of $22,510 for this year. She said much of the work her association does is on a volunteer basis.

“We’re just grateful to have anything at all,” Jacobs said.

Meanwhile, the Chamber of Commerce would get $40,000 to help it reorient itself as a Chamber and Visitors Bureau that would “increase Alameda’s visibility as a place to live, conduct business, and/or to visit,” according to the staff report on that.

The chamber would create a new website to promote the city, expand its existing “Shop Alameda” campaign, create a relocation packet for prospective residents and businesses and promote the Island and its events – including events like the Art & Wine Faire and the Webster Street Jam, put on by the Park Street and Webster Street business associations, respectively – to national travel, tourism and lifestyle media.

“We’re thrilled we will be able to partner with the city to do this. It’s the perfect opportunity to bring visitors to Alameda,” the chamber’s chief executive officer, Melody Marr, said.

The chamber would also get a new office in a location that’s more visible than its current Park Avenue digs.

More to come after tonight’s meeting.


  • alameda says:

    Anybody know where Alameda's Chamber of Commerce stands on the issue of climate change? Are they in sync with the US Chamber of Commerce, which has seen some high profile names quit in disagreement.


  • Melody says:

    The Chamber has not taken a formal position on the climate change issue, it is on the Economic Development/Government Relations Committee list for review and postion recommendation to the Chamber board. With all the information in the news about the US Chamber, please know the Alameda Chamber is in no way affiliated with the US Chamber of Commerce.

  • Jill Staten says:

    Has anyone done a study of how the "shop Alameda" advertising affects spending habits? I wasn't aware that taxpayers were subsidizing the ads.

  • Barbara M says:

    Jill, I have a business on Park Street and the most effective marketing we have had in years was last weekend during the Customer Appreciation Day. Unfortunately none of your tax dollars helped pay as it wasn't a PSBA sponsored event. One genius merchant got it started (no, not me) and 58 business participated. Other than the president of PSBA picking up balloons (I will give her lots of credit for that as I am sure it wasn't easy) it was completely driven outside of PSBA. I can tell you the best marketing we have right now is a cute, quaint shopping area complete with movie theater and good food. Right now it is also much safer than say College ave. All of the shop local ads I have participated in have not been under the PSBA umbrella either. I really thought twice about putting this out in the blog world but at this point I don't at all see any advertising that is being done on my behalf that is even slightly effective. We have to pay a couple hundred extra dollars when we get our business license for the joy of being on park st (without hesitation as I do love where I am) which I don't have a problem with but the city does nothing to oversee those funds, when they award them to PSBA there is no audit or anything. I am certainly not accusing them of any wrong doing but I am a bit mystified how the city turns over collected tax funds from businesses and city dollars without any oversight. I have brought this up to city council people and Mr. Kennedy and they each said it isn't theirs to deal with. I wish I felt like I thought we had a plan but one is never communicated to the merchants.

    Right now the best thing the city could do with those tax dollars is get us some police presence. The skateboarding at amazing speeds and unsafe cycling along with more pan handling and theft is much more worrisome than ads.

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