MERCED — The City Councilman unanimously backed an evolving plan hatched by Councilman Mike Murphy that would provide a roughly $1,000 incentive for new businesses that open downtown.
The program, modeled after efforts in Turlock, is aimed at reducing unemployment and vacancies downtown, while boosting the tax base and providing new entertainment in the area.
New retail businesses that charge sales tax would be eligible for the funding if they occupied space downtown under the program.
Existing retail businesses downtown would be eligible if they expanded by a minimum of 300 square feet. A local retail business relocating downtown and expanding its product line also would be eligible.
To qualify, small businesses owners would have to prepare a "business plan" in conjunction with the Small Business Alliance Center. The owner would then have to meet with city staff to review codes and licensing requirements prior to the issuance of permits.
The owner also would have to agree to quarterly record keeping for one year.
"This is a business attraction program," said Councilman Mike Murphy. "But it's also a retention program. This is an opportunity to create an incentive to take the step to really be ready."
The target location includes 16th, Main and 18th streets between G and V streets.
"I like the targeted area," said Mayor Stan Thurston. "This can always be expanded if it's really successful. We're really talking about the entertainment district."
The city estimates that 15 businesses would be eligible, with the incentive money coming from the general fund.