Emmaus Borough Council is being asked to contribute $3,000 to help promote businesses in the community through an advertising campaign, even though that request was rejected several weeks ago.
On Monday night, Teri Madison, executive director of Emmaus Main Street Partners, asked council to revisit the request first submitted in April “so we can better help the businesses in Emmaus thrive and prosper and hopefully expand as well.”
While Madison expanded on the original request by providing a written proposal on how the money will be used, two of the seven council members made it clear they again intend to reject it.
Madison described it as a partnership between the borough and the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce. The chamber will provide a $3,000 grant if the borough will match it with another $3,000.
She said that $6,000 will be used to market Emmaus businesses.
Council member Michael Waddell still wanted to know: “What’s our return on this investment?”
Madison admitted the borough might not immediately see any tangible benefits, “but if we can keep our businesses here it does benefit you” through increased tax revenue.
She said council members know a lot of Emmaus businesses are struggling right now and do not have the advertising dollars they need “to keep their business afloat.”
Madison noted Emmaus had a very high vacancy rate before the inception of the Main Street program nearly 20 years ago.
Even now, she said, “It’s a daily struggle for us to make sure our businesses stay here. And we work on filling the holes that are already here.
“The idea is to give these businesses a boost, a hand-up, to help them stay here, keep them going and keep the community thriving.”
Based on figures Madison provided to council, the full cost of the promotional project is $6,500 -- $2,000 for a TV commercial that will be done by Emmaus-based FireRock Productions, $2,500 for airtime by VIA Media, $1,500 in print advertising with three weekly papers of the East Penn Press chain and $500 for one year of on-screen advertising by Emmaus Theatre.
She said most of those companies are offering discounts, with FireRock and Via absorbing more than half of their costs to help the project.
She explained the borough’s contribution is needed this year.
Said council member Brent Labenberg: “This is money that was not budgeted. Where’s it going to come from? We all struggled to come up with a budget this year and we cut programs left and right, including positions. We’re going to spend money we don’t have? I’m not willing to do that.”
Waddell recommended the request be reviewed by council’s budget and finance committee, indicating there have been changes – “pluses and minuses” since the budget was passed in December.
Council member Brian Holtzhafer, who chairs that committee, said the Main Street funding request will be discussed at its next meeting at 3:30 p.m. July 23.
“We have to talk about it, we owe them that,” said Holtzhafer, but he added: “We already denied them once. I am not voting a second time to give them money.”
At council’s June 19 meeting, Holtzhafer reported his committee voted to deny Main Street Partners’ $3,000 request. The rest of council apparently made no attempt to reverse that committee’s action.
In a related issue, Madison said a recent survey done on community perceptions of the borough’s business district showed four major areas of concern: the hours businesses are open, the mix of businesses, the lack of nightlife and inadequate or improperly marked parking.
She indicated that before the survey was done, all those issues already were included in Main Street Partners’ five-year plan and all will be addressed. She called the results “an indication that we’re on the right track, we’re reading our community correctly.”
Also during the meeting, some council members lamented that the sheen literally is off Triangle Park in the center of town.
Labenberg said the brick-like surface in the park was shiny and colorful when it first opened, but has turned dull and gray. His public works committee will look into it.
Waddell said: “I also was surprised that the sheen that was on those bricks in 2009 is pretty much gone.” He wants to know if any warranty exists to ensure that the appearance of the patterned concrete that looks like brick should still look as it did four years ago. If not, Waddell asked: “What can we do to make it look better? It doesn’t look like it should look. The red that was put on to make it look like brick is gone. It looks like concrete.”