Businesses need support not legislation

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 17, 2011

Today’s economic climate poses enough challenges for small businesses that we do not need additional laws that would make it even tougher for them to survive.

But that is exactly what could have happened if city council had adopted an early proposal of an ordinance dealing with vendor fees during special events in the city of Ironton.

The proposal stems from the Friends of Ironton seeking assistance in curbing outside vendors from coming into the city to make a quick buck during events that the grassroots civic organization puts on like Rally on the River and Gus Macker.

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The Friends group is right with its concerns and the desire to address the vendors. It only makes sense that the city institute and enforce laws to address this, in part because the civic organization does so much for the community including building and donating the spray ground and making great strides on the revitalization of the Ro-Na Theater.

However, one part of the original discussion was fundamentally flawed and thankfully council members saw this and have since taken it off the table.

Early discussion of the proposal included a clause that would have applied steep vendors license fees — as high as $1,500 — to existing businesses within the city that wanted to have certain types of promotions or sales that may have extended outside their physical locations.

That could have meant that long-time businesses like Allyn’s Jewelers or Unger’s Shoes could have to pay this fee if they had sidewalk sales or setup displays in their parking areas.

Allowing this to happen would’ve been a slap in the face to all these businesses that support Ironton for years and are here 365 days, not just one or two.

They pay the city taxes. They pay the fees each month. They employ Irontonians.

Plus, some of the downtown businesses are actually likely to be hurt by an event like Rally on the River because it will keep regular customers away. They have to be allowed to try to recoup that from some of the visitors to our city.

But I understand where the Friends are coming from on this because there are some businesses that need to be asked to do more during specific events. The Friends and the council just need to find another avenue to address those specific ones rather than a blanket law that impacts all businesses.

Many of the businesses that stand to benefit the most from something like the Rally — the bars in Ironton — contribute very little to the Friends.

These establishments take on virtually no risk but stand to gain nearly all the rewards.

Hopefully, the council can find a way to address this without a law that punishes all the other businesses.

A partnership has to be formed so that the businesses most benefiting from the Rally — such as Frog Town and The Laid Back, to name a few — make a commitment to keeping the event going.

This particular change may not happen for 2011, but it should certainly be in place for 2012.

If not, the Friends may have to take the Rally elsewhere. And who could blame them?

Michael Caldwell is publisher of The Tribune. To reach him, call (740) 532-1445 ext. 24 or by e-mail at