Mayor Larry Travis explained that the City needs to work on removing barriers for businesses, like the recently repealed ordinance that prevented restaurants from serving alcohol near churches and schools.
“We still don’t have enough of that,” he said. “We need to get people walking around downtown.”
Christian Popoli, city planner, agreed. He called for the City to generate activity, perhaps asking the High Springs Chamber of Commerce to help with the venture.
The commission evaluated a list of financial goals set last year. Similar issues were brought up at the High Springs City Commission candidate forum sponsored by the Gainesville Tea Party on Oct. 3.
The commission discussed Thursday the possibility of bringing back events like Downtown Days or Fantastic Fridays, events that encouraged visitors to shop downtown and enjoy entertainment by local performers. Travis suggested bringing those back and asking the chamber of commerce to create a community calendar with all of the events going on in Alachua, Newberry and High Springs.
He said a partnership amongst the three towns is crucial and close to happening. This will make sure the towns are not planning conflicting events, keeping them from experiencing smaller crowds. He said this would also allow High Springs to attract more vendors for annual events like Pioneer Days, which have been overshadowed by other cities’ happenings in the past few years.
“Vendors are going to go where they have the chance of making the most money,” he said.
Travis also said the city is in talks with Poe Springs to build upon the spring’s financial opportunities.
“I want to make it a recreational thing,” he said.
The commission discussed creating a branded image for the community to help spur economic development. The City’s slogan, “Enjoy our good nature,” has been underused, Commissioner Sue Weller said.
“How do we enhance that?” she said. “What does it mean? It could mean to enjoy the nature of the area, the springs and stuff. But it could also mean to enjoy the kindness of our people.”
Popoli explained that a brochure was once started to help clarify this image, but it was never fleshed out. He said something like that could be placed in chambers of commerce across Florida and sent to tourism bureaus.
He also emphasized that the City must reach out to businesses by letting them know the steps High Springs is taking to make moving to the city easier. He cited the City’s tax abatement policy, which offers businesses a break on their taxes when they open. There are not many places that have a policy like this, he said.
“This is unique to High Springs,” he said. “It’s a really great tool.”
Travis agreed that reaching out to businesses and creating an image is a problem the City has faced before.
“We’ve never come up with a dedicated funding source,” he said. “You’ve got to spend money to make money.”
He also said that the City has not made enough use of its web site. He said the web site was supposed to be a way for High Springs to reach the world, but “I don’t think we’ve done that.”
Travis suggested that the City make use of University of Florida marketing students to help.
“I know I’ve talked to Dr. Machen about that,” he said. “It gives them practical experience that they don’t get anywhere else.”
Weller said the key to the city’s success is being more proactive in its measures.
“It takes pushing, and asking why, and finding out what’s going on,” she said.
The commission also discussed the possibility of inventorying available buildings and making a “gripes list” of problems business owners have had with City zoning policies.
Popoli said the bottom line is that the commission needs to get the word out about what makes the town unique.
“What we have here is that we’re High Springs,” he said. “It’s pretty here; it’s nice here. We need to make sure it’s out there.”Add a comment