QUINCY -- When Quincy Mayor Kyle Moore presented his economic plan known as the 45x30 Plan earlier this month, he described it as "a bet on the future of Quincy."
The multi-faceted plan, which would be funded by a 2% food and beverage tax, includes initiatives aimed at growing the city's population to 45,000 by the year 2030. The Quincy City Council is expected to vote on the tax at its Monday meeting.
One of the pillars of the 45x30 Plan is the implementation of specific incentives the city could use to court entrepreneurs and other retailers into opening or expanding businesses in Quincy, a city that has seen the number of its nationwide retailers operating here plummet with the closing of Bergner's, Sears, Shopko, Kmart, JC Penney and others. At the same time, the number of small businesses opening in the city continues to grow. Economic development officials say 19 new have opened in Quincy this year.
"First and foremost, the biggest part of the 45x30 Plan is the retail incentives that I believe will continue to make Quincy a retail hub," Moore said. "Forty years ago, the city made the conscious decision to go after major retailers and to bring them to Quincy, and that decision has paid off in dividends for the city. Today, our local city government runs primarily on sales tax dollars, not property taxes. Our property taxes don't pay for general operating expenses, and a lot of people don't realize that. It is important for us to continue to be a retail hub that can attract shoppers from Illinois, Iowa and Missouri to come to Quincy. We know that when they come here to shop, they are also dining in our restaurants and finding other ways to spend more money in our city."
The mayor continued, "I think where we have been penny wise and pound foolish in that we have not put any significant money behind actually going out to recruit new stores to come to Quincy. We can only send out so many informational packets. In this day and age, you have to meet people face to face and that occurs either at their conferences, by going directly to them, or by bringing them here."
He then recalled how years ago a delegation from Quincy went to Baltimore to visit retailers. The trip proved a success, and multiple retailers opened stores in Quincy, which continue to operate.
"When we put our opportunities for growth and the Quincy community out in front of the decision makers of these companies, people become very interested in learning more about Quincy," Moore said.
He said that representatives from the Great River Economic Development Foundation recently attended a meeting of the International Council of Shopping Centers, where they met one-on-one with several company representatives. He said he has also fielded calls from companies interested in knowing more about Quincy. Names of those companies were not disclosed.
"Whenever we have had the chance to talk to them, they always ask about incentives," Moore said. "People may not realize it, but we are in competition with hundreds of other cities, with hundreds of other malls all across America that have empty stores. Without incentives we are at an automatic disadvantage. With incentives we actually stand a chance to get our stores filled again."
Under the proposed 45x30 Plan, the city would offer three retail incentive programs. If the food and beverage tax is approved on Monday, the city would immediately begin preparing draft ordinances regarding incentive programs. The ordinances would likely not be brought up for debate until January.
Moore said if the incentives are approved, the Quincy City Council would still have to approve using incentives each time a retailer applied for them.
The first, a speciality retail program, would offer sales tax reimbursements to businesses that operate more than a 5,000 square-foot retail location in Quincy. This is intended to help local businesses and out-of-town businesses deal with relocation and expansion costs.
The second, a redevelopment and rehab program, would also offer sales tax reimbursements to any business that upgrades or enhances its existing location to include 5,000 square feet or more.
The third incentive would be a locally administered grant offered to retailers who would take the place of the now closed major retailers in the Quincy Mall or along the storefronts on Broadway. Money from the grant would help offset the cost of demolition of existing stores, purchasing the property, or upgrading the current building.
"We have seen the long-term detrimental effects these vacant stores can have on cities if they do nothing," Moore said. "When these buildings stay vacant longer, they tend to become blighted spaces, and then the city government has to pay to have them kept up. If you look at other communities, you see local municipalities having to take over ownership and management of vacant stores and malls."
Moore insists this is the kind of future he is trying to avoid with his 45x30 Plan and the food and beverage tax.
"If we don't find some other form of economic development funding, it would mean that we would be taking away from general revenue, which pays for things like streets, police and fire," Moore said. "I don't think anyone in Quincy has the appetite or the desire to do that."
Moore said he also believes the city can attract retailers despite the changing retail environment for brick-and-mortar stores due to the increased popularity of online shopping.
The 45x30 Plan also calls for an expanded retail marketing campaign of $50,000, which will be used to increase Quincy's presence at retail trade shows and conventions. It is at these events, Moore said, that city officials will be able to highlight how Quincy is a shopping destination for people living within a 60-mile radius, home to 350,000 residents, and who have the collective purchasing power of $7.7 billion.
"I think that is how Quincy stands out," Moore said.