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Our View: Unified plan needed for local business

Our View
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Auburn is often described as a tight-knit local community that helps one another out. That didn’t seem to be completely the case for some of our businesses last week. At a city council meeting, some owners spoke out against how a mandatory fee for a business improvement district wasn’t spent to its maximum potential. Their claims very well may have merit and there are probably a myriad ways to spend a pot of money to better local eateries and stores. However, those paying the fee need to get involved and share those different ways to use the money instead of attacking the way it is spent. Two prominent Old Town Auburn business owners, Gary Moffat of Carpe Vino and Brian and Lisa Ford of the Auburn Alehouse, both voiced displeasure with the way fees are spent. The Fords mentioned the 65 people they employ and the customer draw they provide not just for their establishment but also for surrounding businesses as reasons why their opinion should be strongly considered. The couple said they don’t like to see out-of-county food vendors set up next to their restaurant during special events and said they’d like a say on how the fees are spent. Those points are valid. Local events should feature local businesses, groups, etc. And a business paying fees should have a say on how they are spent. Linda Robinson, president of the Old Town Business Association, said all members can attend and speak at monthly meetings, yet few do. She highlighted how events such as Old Town Country Christmas draw large crowds and pack restaurants to capacity. In a follow-up story, Jim Bril, president of the Downtown Auburn Business Association, was interviewed by the Journal. Bril said few Downtown businesses complain or attend meetings for their district. He said he wished more would participate. While there may be some differences as to how mandatory fee money should be spent, there seems to be common ground in that business owners want to get more customers through their doors. At the conclusion of discussion at the council meeting, members set a May deadline for the Old Town Business Association to restructure its board to include a cross-section of businesses in the district and to reassess its fees. The deadline and directive opens the door and provides a push for all business owners in the district to come together and identify common goals. A local business owner’s time and energy is precious. Spend it coming up with ideas to promote the district, work together to develop a plan and then support implementing the plan. The results of minds working together will surely pay far more dividends than a group divided. In the end, a unified plan will hopefully accomplish a common goal of bettering all of Auburn’s businesses.