Is Eagle the next Fruita?
EAGLE, Colorado ” The final numbers are in and 2008 wasn’t quite as bad for sales tax collection in Eagle, Colorado as feared.
Overall, the town’s sales tax revenues dropped 1 percent last year ” a total of $3.194 million for 2008 compared to a total of $3.215 million in 2007.
But the picture is a bit grimmer when utility sales tax is taken out of the picture. Then the percentage drops to 11 percent below 2008 figures. Initially, Eagle had projected a 5 percent gain in sales tax revenue, but when the national economy tanked in late summer, town officials revised that estimate to a 0 percent increase.
“Forecasts are pretty difficult these days,” said Eagle Town Manager Willy Powell, citing not only the national economic climate but also the low inflation rate as factors that impact local numbers. But as officials look to the year ahead, they are predicting more people will shop closer to home. It that prediction holds true, it will be a boon not only to the town but to local merchants.
The Colorado Municipa League estimates that every dollar spend locally has a four-time multiplier effect. When a customer spends a dollar with a local merchant, the shop then turns around and spends that dollar with another local merchant in a cycle that spreads the wealth.
Shopping local means dropping dollars in places such as Kidtopia and Mountain Peddler, downtown Eagle businesses owned by CiCi Franklin and Charlie Brown, respectively. Both Franklin and Brown say that 2008 wasn’t too bad, business-wise, but they are anticipating leaner times for 2009.
For Brown, the local warm spring weather has brought a bigger economic impact than the national news. He notes people are hauling out their bikes and tune-up business has been brisk. But he doesn’t expect early business gains to hold steady this year. Rather, he noted, his 2009 merchandising reflects more value-oriented bikes.
“We tried to buy the right product for a year that isn’t going to be a banner year,” he said.
Both Brown and Franklin stressed the importance of getting out the word that by shopping locally, residents not only help business owners but also the community as a whole.
“I think there are a lot of people in Eagle who just don’t know what is available,” Franklin said.
Simple community demographics support Franklin’s theory. According to the most recent Eagle survey, conducted in 2007, the average resident has lived in the community less than five years. Both Franklin and Brown noted an effort to simply let new residents know about the shopping opportunities in the community would likely bring in business.
“I think people want to shop locally. Why wouldn’t you?” Brown said.
As the economic constricts, local merchants also are finding strength in numbers. The Eagle Valley Chamber of Commerce has sponsored a series of business forum meetings aimed at generating ideas for expanding events and marketing for the community. Additionally, the downtown Eagle merchants are working together to draw in customers.
“We need to do more of a push with marketing,” Franklin said. “I think there is a lot of potential to develop the sports options we have here.”
Those options include mountain biking. Some local business owners have suggested Eagle market itself as the next Moab or Fruita.
“I think Eagle could be of that nature. We have enough variety of trails,” Brown said.
Eagle’s current mountain biking trail system is focused more as a community amenity rather than a destination system, but Brown believes the variety of terrain available on public lands located adjacent to town gives strength to the idea of marketing Eagle as a biking mecca. He notes current trailheads areas don’t provide parking space for huge numbers, but plentiful parking is available just down the road from both the Bellyache and Eagle Ranch trailheads.
“Fruita didn’t always have the parking, either,” says Brown.
As he looks at Eagle’s marketing needs, Brown believes that the town of Eagle is the logical entity to take over that role.
“They want sales tax revenues, they need to market themselves. It seems to make sense for the town to have someone geared toward marketing,” he said.
Brown says, as a business owner, he has found the town is supportive of merchants. He believes the expansion into marketing is a logical progression. And, Brown added, an entity such as the chamber has to look beyond just supporting Eagle businesses.
In the end, Brown believes revenues generated from a town marketing position would pay for the town’s effort.
“Are you more likely to open a business here if you have a town marketing person or a town marketing group? Sure,” Brown said.
Others have been less enthused by the idea of having the town take over marketing duties.
“On the town payroll isn’t where you want a marketing person,” said Eagle Mayor Ed Woodland during one of the chamber sessions.
He noted the town has a long history of funding community events and promotions, but taking over marketing would be a stretch on the town’s already tight budget.
After doing a bit of research, Eagle Town Board member Roxie Deane found that the town already dedicated significant dollars to marketing. Between event funding and funding for the Eagle Visitor Information Center, the town spent nearly $100,000 for marketing in 2007.
“That is all for in-Eagle stuff,” Deane said.
But while town officials and local merchants debate the direction for marketing efforts, they remain agreed on the first step ” make sure local residents spend more of their dollars at local shops.
“We are really encouraging people to shop local so they can support local business and help sales tax receipts,” Powell said.