Merced to look at business incentive program

jsmith@mercedsunstar.comFebruary 19, 2013 

The Merced City Council unanimously voted Tuesday to direct its staff to study a proposed plan to woo businesses using financial incentives. However, the council expressed concerns about funding.

Inspired by a program in Turlock, Councilman Mike Murphy requested that the city consider giving new businesses $1,000 if they occupy a vacant building in the city of Merced.

Under the preliminary plan, qualifying business owners would need to create a business plan, produce quarterly reports for a year and meet with the council, Murphy said.

"It's basically an attraction and retention proposal," said Murphy. "The retention part is really No. 1."

Many on the council expressed concern about moving too quickly.

"The funding has to wait until the next budgetary year," said Councilman Josh Pedrozo. "I'm 100 percent behind staff doing research."

He said he didn't think trying to put something together before the end of the budgetary year "does anyone any favors."

Councilman Tony Dossetti also expressed reservations: "I really like this program. The only problem that I have with this is where's the money going to come from?"

The council unanimously agreed to have staff review the program and report back by this summer for consideration during the next budgetary cycle.

Under newly revised rules, council members as well as the public can put items on a City Council agenda. Requests from the public must be accompanied by two votes on the council for consideration. A request from a council member needs no accompanying votes.

Before the change, the city manager decided the agenda's content, city officials said.

Requests to consider items for future agendas must be submitted more than a week before a meeting to appear on the meeting's agenda. Once approved, placing an item on a future agenda can take up to 30 days.

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