Sales tax money from spending in the community reduces the need for tax increases, according to city staff.
The national “Small Business Saturday” initiative is coming up on Nov. 24 — the Saturday after Thanksgiving — and if every local resident chose that day to spend $25 shopping or dining in Palm Coast, that would infuse $1.4 million into the local economy, bolstering local businesses and generating tax revenue that could be used to fund projects like the Holland Park renovation and Community Center construction.
"If you’re going to fuel up in St. Augustine, well, you’re improving St. Augustine roads. I say let’s improve our roads by making that conscious decision."
— MILISSA HOLLAND, Palm Coast mayor
Raising awareness of the benefits of shopping locally has been a key initiative favored by Mayor Milissa Holland and considered a priority by Palm Coast’s City Council, which asked city staff to come up with a marketing campaign to inform residents.
Holland, speaking during a City Council workshop Sept. 25, said she wants to change residents’ mindsets, “so they’re making a conscious decision every time they’re stepping into a store.”
“I don’t want us to be making investments in Ormond Beach because we’re spending dollars in Ormond Beach, and they’re collecting those dollars and then in return enhancing their community. Likewise with St. Augustine,” she said. “If you’re going to fuel up in St. Augustine, well, you’re improving St. Augustine roads. I say let’s improve our roads by making that conscious decision.”
Palm Coast City staff at the Sept. 25 workshop gave a presentation to the council about progress on the shop local initiative. Council members had felt the initiative was neglected by previous city manager Jim Landon, who was fired by the council last week — in part, council members said, because he had been tasked with generating a shop local initiative, but the council felt he hadn’t made enough progress on it.
Interim City Manger Beau Falgout, who had served as Landon’s assistant city manager and was appointed interim manager by the council when it fired Landon, placed an update on the shop local initiative on the agenda for the Sept. 25 workshop.
City staff members Cindi Lane, the city’s communicators and marketing manager; and Wynn Newingham, Palm Coast’s head of Innovation and Economic Growth, showed the council a concept logo for the shop local initiative — it has the words “Be local, buy local” superimposed on the city’s palm-tree-and-sun logo — and outlined the details of the proposed shop local campaign.
“As we move into the new budget year, we plan to refresh our marketing materials and expand our marketing,” Lane said. The new logo, she said, “really gives our residents some ownership to this, and also helps them build pride in supporting our local businesses and our local economy.”
The comprehensive, year-round campaign, Lane said, would start in the upcoming fiscal year, which begins in October.
Newingham emphasized the importance of helping residents realize that money spent locally contributes to the city’s tax revenues and thereby relieves the need for tax increases.
Sales tax money from local spending, she said, generated $7.6 million in revenue for the city in 2017.
“When our local citizens are buying locally, it’s an easy way that they can give back and really see their dollars at work without increasing taxes or feeling a burden,” she said.
The city has largely worked on its shop local messaging through free measures, but it has about $11,000 that can be set aside for spending on the shop local campaign, Falgout said.
Holland said the city needs to be willing to invest some money.
“I think, for one, part of this strategy was to have a funding source attached to it,” she said. “It has to be continual; it can’t just be a one-time shot. There’s new residents that come into our community every day.”
She proposed spending money on print media and radio advertising campaigns.
Councilwoman Heidi Shipley noted that the council had previously spoken about creating a flier that local businesses could put on their doors: She wondered if having a particular local initiative that the money is being collected for might generate public awareness and support.
Holland thought so: She noted that residents she’d spoken with had seemed impressed that the city was able to use sales tax money to fund the Community Center renovation without taking on debt.
Councilman Vincent Lyon said that the city could, instead of just telling residents afterward how the sales tax money had been used, advertise which projects would be funded with that money ahead of time, so residents know how their tax dollars are being spent.