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Business walks offer pathway to improvement

Use of temporary signs among owners’ concerns
By: Gloria Young Journal Staff Writer
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Visibility and flexibility are themes that resonate across the county as officials review the results of business walks over the past year. “There’s a recognition for representatives of city councils, the business community and the chamber of commerce leadership that providing a little more flexibility in the coming months, at least throughout 2011, is a pretty good idea — allowing more visibility for businesses, particularly some of the newer businesses that are less established and are getting their feet on the ground and building clientele,” David Snyder, director of Placer County’s Office of Economic Development, said this week. During its April 21 meeting, the county’s Economic Development Board reviewed reports on follow-up actions taken in Auburn, Roseville, Rocklin, Lincoln and the Sunset Industrial Area. “On the Economic Development Board, we have representatives of each jurisdiction,” Snyder said. “Each representative took a few minutes to talk about the walks in their cities. It was kind of a summary overview of both the walks and, more specifically, the action items or deliverables that came out of each one.” A topic that surfaced during all the walks was signage. “It seemed that almost across the board, the jurisdictions were trying to work with the business community, particularly on temporary signage,” Snyder said. “In more cases than not, they were trying to show as much flexibility as possible. I think in a perfect world, cities would prefer temporary signage — in particular banners, window signs, sandwich boards and those type of things, would be actually temporary as opposed to more permanent.” In Auburn it’s a subject that came up on the Listening to Business walks in both 2010 and 2011, according to Bruce Cosgrove, Auburn Chamber of Commerce CEO. “One specific thing that just got resolved was the city relaxing (the policy on) temporary signs,” he said. “In these economic times, those temporary sign concerns are really prevalent and it has been helpful to small business to have the flexibility of doing specialized signage. So the city and county have been doing their best to accommodate that.” On the other hand, some businesses have asked for enforcement of the original sign ordinance and a cleanup of some of the temporary signs. “In the process of block and enforcement efforts, we all became aware that it would be very helpful to leave the relaxed signage program in place, at least for a few months,” Cosgrove said. At Ramona Lou in Downtown Auburn, owner Sommer Naffz said it is very helpful to be able to have her small sandwich sign outside the door of her Lincoln Way dress shop. “Having a small business in a small town, you have to reach out (not only to residents, but) to people travelling through the area, …” she said. “As long (as the sign) follows reasonable codes and is not obscene, it should be fine.” Another thing the Economic Development Board is looking to accomplish stems from Sacramento Metro Chamber’s business walks that have relevance locally. “(The Metro chamber) has been doing these walks for more than 10 years,” Snyder said. “At least 10 communities have held these walks for many years. … There’s a very interesting, diverse and eclectic mix of actions that have come out of each one. We shared this with the board on Thursday and we just talked briefly about these. But what we decided to do is push this back to committee to look at (the actions) in more depth.” Some of the regional business walk accomplishments include chamber discount cards, ADA compliance workshops, micro loan programs and business association consolidation. The board will take up the issue again at the June meeting, Snyder said. One of the messages of this year’s Auburn walk, held March 2, was more optimism, Cosgrove said. “We’re not having a banner year economically,” he said. “Everyone recognizes that the recovery is going to be much more long-term that we had hoped. But there is optimism in that we are surviving this and there is reason to believe that we will continue to survive. That’s comforting. That came out this year in the business walk. Locally, business owners have also voiced a need for more promotion and advertising. “What was interesting is that their comments weren’t that someone should do it for them, but that they should do it on their own, to promote and advertise their business,” Cosgrove said. “This year, the way they responded to the business walk indicated that they had actually initiated their own self promotion and were seeing some results.” Auburn’s next Listening to Business walk will be in late February or early March 2012. “We see the business walk as a very beneficial program for the chamber, the city and the county,” Cosgrove said. “And it’s appreciated by the business community. ... We’re getting positive feedback from volunteers out on the street doing the visiting and those who are being visited.” For the county as a whole, the next business walk take place in Loomis in July. “At the same time, we’ll include the Sunset industrial area again,” Snyder said. “Most of the others have done two walks now.” Reach Gloria Young at gloriay@goldcountrymedia.com.