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Galt Herald

Council Looks at Chamber’s ‘Visit Galt 2.0’ Promotion

Mar 28, 2024 10:49AM ● By Matthew Malone

A promotional image for the ‘Visit Galt Initiative 2.0’ presented to Galt City Council. Image courtesy of city of Galt

Council Looks at Chamber’s ‘Visit Galt 2.0’ Promotion [1 Image] Click Any Image To Expand
GALT, CA (MPG) - A revised version of Galt District Chamber of Commerce’s proposed Visit Galt initiative came before Galt City Council at its March 19 regular meeting. The city’s economic development head said the package of programs is a way to “start small” in promoting Galt.
“Visit Galt Initiative 2.0” would formalize the relationship between the city and the chamber, create two small-business grant funds, and provide for improvements in Old Town.
The chamber made its original proposal in March last year, asking that the city contribute leftover pandemic-relief funding from the American Rescue Plan Act. The city had allocated $1.3 million for small business grants, but after two application periods, about $500,000 remained. At the time, the chamber’s concept involved a new visitor center, advertising for the city and three to four years of salary for a new executive director position.
City Council created an ad hoc committee with representatives of the city and the chamber, as well as Councilmembers Jay Vandenburg and Kevin Papineau, to negotiate the proposal.
“After hearing from council members, from local businesses and the wider community, the chamber acknowledged the need to start small and gradually scale up the tourism initiative,” Economic Development director Amie Mendes said.
Under the plan, the city would pay for a diamond membership in the chamber, a cost of $7,500 annually, which Mendes said “signifies a partnership between the city and the chamber moving forward.” 
In addition, the city and chamber would enter into a two-year memorandum of understanding (MOU), an agreement laying out initiatives that the two entities plan to collaborate on; $115,000 would go to workshops for small businesses. The memorandum of understanding would also include a public mural program and the creation of promotional materials, such as a city map and Galt-themed postcards and stickers.
Another element of the proposal was developing an Old Town visionary plan that would describe multiple projects, particularly improving lighting in the area and considering a dedicated event space in the area of the Fourth Street Promenade. Staff recommended allocating $100,000 for the plan.
Mendes said the idea of the event area is complicated by Union Pacific Railroad’s ownership of the land near the train tracks. She added that city-owned downtown properties could be considered for development or recreation space.
“All of these really would be encompassed into a visionary plan for the Old Town, talking to business owners, talking to residents and really trying to be visionary about what we want to see on the Fourth Street area,” Mendes said.
One of the two grants, the Small Business Assistance Grant Program, would receive $200,000 in funding. The 50-50 matching grant would “foster the growth and expansion of small businesses with physical storefront locations in Old Town Galt.” An applicant could receive up to $20,000 to help with items such as tenant improvements; Americans With Disabilities Act compliance; and lighting, signage and facade enhancements.
The other grant is the Small Business Security Assessment and Grant Program. Conceived as a response to the smash-and-grab burglaries that struck multiple businesses last summer, the $65,000 initiative would provide an applicant with a security consultation, followed by up to $5,000 to implement the consultant’s recommendations.
“This would be available citywide for all of the (retail) businesses. … I think that in order to place some parameters on this, we would likely look at areas that have been impacted previously by these smash-and-grab burglaries, so some of the shopping centers and then the Old Town area,” Mendes said.
The chamber’s original proposal asked for 30% of the city’s transient occupancy tax revenue for ongoing tourism programs. Mendes considered this a “viable use” for the money collected from hotels and said that plan would come before City Council in the future.
Council members gave feedback on the proposal. They did not take official action at the meeting.
Councilmember Shawn Farmer predicted that the security grant fund would deplete quickly, suggesting that the maximum grant amount be lowered to $2,500. Papineau said that was a “good point”; he emphasized that the grant amounts should be justified by the security assessment.
Vandenburg commended the chamber for listening to community input. He said there was more refining to do but supported the overall program.
“I really think you guys did the right thing, all in all,” Vandenburg said to the chamber.
Farmer and Sandhu were concerned that the focus on previously burglarized businesses was too subjective and excluded other businesses.
The council members had generally positive comments for the memorandum of understanding, Old Town improvement proposals and the Old Town small-business grants. Papineau referenced Mendes’ comment on starting small with the program.
“I don’t think we necessarily started small,” Papineau said. “But I think what we came to is we need to start at the beginning. … If we’re going to have tourism and visitors, we have to have what they’re coming to visit.”
Regarding the Old Town grants, Mayor Paul Sandhu emphasized that struggling businesses should get priority. Lozano said local owners of franchise businesses should also get consideration.