San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

July 5th, 2009
Downtown businesses wary of Springtown deal

By SEAN WARDWELL
Managing Editor

The San Marcos Downtown Association held an emergency meeting Friday morning to discuss the implications of a pending series of interest-free long term loans equaling $5 million to developers seeking to turn Springtown Center into a multi-purpose entertainment complex.

The San Marcos City Council is scheduled to vote Tuesday on whether to grant the loans, which would be paid off through 20 years. Out of that $5 million, $3.2 million would be advanced concurrently with the developer’s purchase of the building that formerly housed Target. The developer is also requesting an additional $1.8 million for construction and installation of fixtures, furniture and equipment for an Alamo Draft House cinema if the lease is executed. The city would have the first lein on this equipment.

Many downtown business owners reacted with shock and outrage to the proposal.

“The city is taking our money, our tax dollars that we generate in this city, or potentially want to generate in this city, and using it against us,” said Allen Shy, owner of Harper’s Public House. “(They’ll) turn their back on a $220,000 master plan they just adopted for downtown that inspired a lot of us to reinvest more money and more money”

The master plan, adopted in 2008, does not specifically designate downtown as the city’s only entertainment district. However, it does say,”the City should promote the local, specialty retail, restaurant, and entertainment businesses, and encourage the establishment or more ‘third places’ businesses Downtown.”

Among the businesses being considered for a re-developed Springtown is a Dave & Busters, an establishment that Shy referred to as, “the WalMart of bars.” However, the concern expressed was not that establishments might come in to compete, but that they shouldn’t do so using public tax dollars.

“This is bad planning,” Shy said. “It’s not the taxpayer’s responsibility. If those guys (developers) go over there and do that, good for them. It’s the free-market, economic way of things, but not with our money, loading in a bullet and shooting it back at us.”

Those at the meeting were also surprised that two city councilmembers, Kim Porterfield and Pam Couch, who were supposed to attend and answer questions, were dissuaded from doing so by San Marcos City Attorney Michael Cosentino.

“It’s called a rolling quorum,” explained Shy. “You’re not allowed to talk to the majority of city council members about any one topic. Otherwise its a violation of the open meetings act – the city council members could get sued.”

City officials could not be reached for comment. However, many business leaders were outraged that their elected officials could not be contacted en masse on the issue.

“Where’s our representation?” asked Ed Tarbutton, owner of Dillingers.

The downtown business owners said they will avail themselves of the three-minute citizen comment period at the July 7 council meeting to make their feelings known. The council has the loans as an action item on its agenda.

For more information on the plans for Springtown, read this previous story.

Newstreamz also has taken a position on the matter in this editorial.

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57 thoughts on “Downtown businesses wary of Springtown deal

  1. I do not see anywhere in the Open Meetings Handbook any provisions that would preclude a couple of our City Council members from meeting with a group of concerned citizens on this important topic. This is from reading the 2008 Open Meetings Act Handbook issued by the Office of the Attorney General, State of Texas, especially Section VI. Meetings, Item F. Meetings of Less than a Quorum in Attempt to Evade the Act: “Walking Quorums” … maybe we need to improve the Open Meetings Training our elected officials receive after they take the oath of office.

  2. We need an entirely new city council and mayor. The current batch just doesn’t get it. Wealthy business interests keep spinning them in circles. I want my taxes back.

  3. It seems as though an emergency meeting of the Downtown Association would constitute a reasonably unforeseeable situation as far as City Council is concerned and they could have had an emergency meeting of their own, to allow them all to meet with the Downtown Association.

    According to Texas Government Code section 551.045, this is exactly what emergency meetings of Council are for and Council would only need to post a notice 2 hours beforehand.

    Perhaps now that there is a new shiny marble to chase, the Downtown Association is just not high enough on Council’s list of priorities to warrant such a meeting.

  4. I am not a lawyer, but: The idea behind the “rolling quorum” provisions is that you can’t have 2 CC members meet a group, leave, another 2 CC members meet the group, leave, etc.. as a way around the Open Meetings Act. But unless other members of the council where scheduled to attend, I don’t see how the Open Meetings Act applies in this case.

  5. It is a sad day when we are interpreting the actions (or lack thereof) of our elected officials with statements that start out with “I am not a lawyer, but…”

    That in and of itself speaks volumes about the state of the relationship between the citizens and our elected officials.

  6. It also speaks about the relationship between the council and developers, if they are so afraid of being sued by developers that they won’t meet with their own constituents.

  7. Since when did the Downtown Association become responsible for economic development in San Marcos? Why should a few nervous bar owners be allowed to dictate what to do with a functionally obsolete albatros, sitting vacant in the worst economic times since the great depression?
    Why not let a process play out which may very well create hundreds of jobs for construction crews to transition this valuable property from disaster to something valuable again. Then hundreds more jobs to provide goods and services to the millions of tourists who pass through our town every year.

    It would be great to see that parking lot full again with cars that need fuel, service and car washes, and customers that need food, beverages and entertainment.

    Why not do something that will benefit the entire community, even, believe it or not, the downtown nervous nellies.

  8. FTA:

    …However, the concern expressed was not that establishments might come in to compete, but that they shouldn’t do so using public tax dollars.

    “This is bad planning,” Shy said. “It’s not the taxpayer’s responsibility. If those guys (developers) go over there and do that, good for them. It’s the free-market, economic way of things, but not with our money…

  9. If you don’t think that cities compete for these types of developments, you’re just not paying attention.

  10. Everyone agrees that Springtown should be redeveloped. Everyone, it seems, shares Bob Wilson’s utopian vision of a redeveloped Springtown. Private investors are free to make it happen. Downtown business owners might not be thrilled if that redevelopment poses competition for themselves, but that’s not what they’re really upset about. Their concern, which Bob Wilson ignores, is that the city would encourage private business investment downtown by passing a downtown master plan, then turn around and sink public funds into competing businesses owned and operated by out-of-towners. It’s a knife in the back, and a sign that the city government can’t be trusted.

  11. Seriously, Bob, can you name another city that would work up a giveaway for an Alamo Draft House? Cities make deals for tech companies, manufacturers and other companies that generate living wage employment. But I’ve never heard of a city giving incentives for restaurants and bars.

  12. Bob, city resources are finite and should be used where the need is most pressing. Bars, restaurants, theaters and retail stores are not what we lack.

  13. Seems like leadership should foster economic diversity and higher paying jobs, but this proposed additional government handout just gives us more of the same (retail type jobs and no positive movement in average wages in the community).

  14. So, let’s just let Springtown rot to the ground while we protect the sacred downtown bars….which by the way have gotten significant resources from the city.

  15. To make the leap from the city declining a $5 million, interest free loan, to Springtown rotting to the ground, is a bit of a stretch, don’t you think, Bob? How long have Target and JCP been gone? Three months? Four? Now, all of a sudden it will be empty for the rest of time, if the city doesn’t pony up $5 million?

    Frankly, I’ll take my chances on bringing some real jobs to town and hope that maybe someone will find a use for that property, which does not require a handout from the taxpayers.

  16. Other cities have incentivized projects like this, including College Station (Northgate, which serves as their de facto downtown). I’m not saying it’s a good idea, but it has been done. From what I’ve seen of the Springtown proposal, it is woefully lacking in making the fundamental changes to the site needed to make viable for more than 15 years. In these economic times, San Marcos needs to focus its attention on attracting primary jobs (manufacturing & professional sectors) rather than low-paying retail. San Marcos desperately needs to diversify its tax base. While Springtown is prime for redevelopment, they need to slow down and do it right. There is a HUGE amount of research out there dealing with redevelopment of failed malls (Google “Greyfields Into Goldfields”). The City needs to work this as a two-way relationship, rather than just letting the developers treat the city coffers like an ATM Machine.

    Slow down, Council. Force them to be creative, and be more creative yourselves. This was only their initial proposal. There is something better in their back pocket.

  17. Is the city counsel on drugs?? Let’s give a large, out of town developer 5 million dollars for 20 years?! That is plain stupid.

    The location is prime and if the developer want’s it bad enough, they will come up with the money themselves… after all, they are a big developer, right? Why fund them with our tax money?

    If the city is hell bent on giving money away for an Alamo Draft House (Great Idea, by the way), why not give the money to a local entrepreneur to develop the idea… perhaps the old Gordos theater on the square would be a better location for an Alamo Draft House anyway. Hello, it’s already a theater AND it’s already located in an entertainment district. Ohhh and it’s empty and currently very ugly.

    Just my two cents

  18. College Station did this, huh? Well, we certainly want to take a page out of their book! There’s nothing to do in College Station after 10. In the morning. I remember being there a couple summers ago on a Friday night and the only reason anything was happening at midnight was because the Barnes & Noble’s stayed open for the release of a new Harry Potter book.

    I’m not busting your chops, government hack. As always, your points are great. And I’m only funning on College Station, not A&M.

  19. San Marcos Kid– I’m just saying that if the San Marcos Council did it, they would at least have another idiot (College Station) in the village to talk to. The project, as conceived right now, is completely inappropriate for the tax incentive they are requesting. Make no mistake… this is just a facelift, not a true redevelopment of the site. They want a 20 year incentive for improvements that will add at best 15 years of life to an antiquated strip center with poor freeway visibility.

    As I recall, Alamo Drafthouse initially looked at Gordo’s about seven years ago, but had issues with their film distributor at the time due to proximity to Starplex and Showplace. Gordo’s is in the middle of a renovation to become a major live music club venue, which is why it looks like holy hell right now. I would have really liked to see Alamo go in Gordo’s.

  20. Like it or not, our main “industry” in San Marcos is tourism. The outlet mall guarantees that. I seem to remember the City granting some incentives for them back in the day too….now it provides more money to our local economy than any other private entity and it’s (I believe) the third most visited attraction in Texas.

    So, Nick, I think more ‘bars and restaurants’ are just what we need. People who are in town for the outlet mall will plan around a trip to an Alamo Draft House or even a Dave & Busters, while names like those on the square aren’t nearly as recognizable and don’t promote tourism for the masses. We need businesses that promote our tourists to stay that extra day or spend that extra dollar in San Marcos.

    It’s a tough cookie to swallow, but the reality is that our City’s “master downtown plan” simply doesn’t seem to jibe with the economic realities that we face in San Marcos. It’s true that locally owned businesses are important to a town, but they can’t be the centerpiece – not in an economy like the one we’re in. Lockhart, sure. San Marcos, not so much.

  21. Isn’t the strip center owned by multimillionaires? Hasn’t a renovation already taken place there in the last decade or so … was that done with tax payer money as well? Perhaps having lots of money to throw around is not an actual problem for those who collect taxes, but the economy IS a problem for taxpayers who at gunpoint are forced to pay taxes, and can’t themselves procure loans! Perhaps the thinking here is that the unemployed tax payers will just be grateful to get one of these minimum wage, part time jobs at the newly renovated strip mall… so they can pay more taxes for no interest loans to the wealthy!

    Gees, how much taxpayer money is laying around down there, city servants? 5 million? No problem. No interest? No problem.

    I wonder how much higher taxes will be next year, and how many of the same faces will sit on the city council come election time.

    People, let’s make new provisions for getting them out of office before their terms are up! Oh, and let’s cut their pay to 1/3 – 1/4 of their current salaries.

  22. I’d love to see some evidence that people will stay an extra day for Dave and Buster’s. They stay all weekend in Fredericksburg and Wimberley, purely for the local flavor.

    As for what our main industry is, that does not mean that we can’t diversify. We have the Outlet Mall, the river and the rapids and a great historic downtown. We have the tourism thing covered pretty well. What we need is new jobs from businesses in new industries – industries that pay a living wage.

  23. The developer proposed incentive currently on the table is not at zero interst. It is not for 20 years. There is no Dave and Buster’s. Its amazing how quickly misconception spreads. The terms of any development incentive deal are negotiated, and this one is ongoing.

    Attend the meeting Tuesday night and get the accurate information. Many of you still won’t agree that any development incentive is appropriate, but the reality is that in the current economic climate, they are more appropriate and necessary than ever.

    All of us are paying more tax than we want, but the added sales tax that a project like this generates will benefit all who pay property taxes. In the long run, the City will get its loan repaid, and be earning new sales tax money for decades….and a few hundred people will have the opportunity for gainful employment…even if most of the jobs are “just” service industry jobs.

  24. Wow…you all seem so angry at the government.

    Why not take this into your own hands and try and get these great companies to come here yourself? I understand the legalities of the situation, but you want action then do it yourself. You have no reason to complain if you won’t get up and stand up for yourself. Why always blame everyone else around you, perhaps because it is easier than to take on a challenge youself. It’s hilarious to read on here that you all are so worked up. It’s great how fast misinformation is passed on. There are always 2 sides to a story, and it seems like you only seek out one side because it evokes your emotions.

    Bellatruth…council members and mayor are NOT paid. Get your facts straight before posting.

  25. Robert,
    Thank you for your comment. Hopefully, the projected taxes generated from this proposed redevelopment will be published, along with all other relevant details, including the terms of the loans, evidence of buy-in from Alamo or other proposed tenants, and estimates of the loss we will take (in terms of interest on the principal) by loaning the cash. I’m looking forward to more information on this proposal. I commented earlier that the entire Council should be replaced. I realize that several of the council members are doing their best to represent our interests, but clearly we need stronger leadership, starting with a new Mayor.

  26. I’m not sure that it matters who the company is. The jobs will be the same.

    $5 million could provide startup capital for 50 small businesses. If each of them employed 5 people, we would create a few hundred jobs as well. If those jobs paid $30,000 per year, vs. $15,000 per year for retail and wait staff jobs, we’d be way ahead and well on our way to the Mayor and Council’s stated goal of being the small business capitol of Texas.

    Positioning this as service industry jobs or nothing is not valid. There is a very good likelihood that Springtown will have new tenants without any incentives and there is no reason to believe that we could not attract some careers to San Marcos for $5 million.

    So, the choice is a few hundred service industry jobs, or a few hundred service industry jobs *and* a few hundred career positions paying a living wage. I’ll take the latter.

  27. I’m also interested to know more about Mr. McDonald’s involvement. I could find no record of a Robert McDonald as a San Marcos homeowner (could be a renter), but I did find a Robert McDonald developer in Austin, with property in Kyle.

  28. Anonymous, we elect the mayor and city council to represent our interests. Our votes give us the right to complain, if we don’t like the direction things are going. That’s how this country works.

  29. Robert McDonald developed Red Oak Village (where Sam’s, Best Buy, etc. are now located). He did so without assistance from the City, then watched the city dole out all kinds of help to his competitor Creekside across the street from him. That is why I am very interested in his perspective on this… not sure if he views this as correcting a wrong done to Springtown in incentivizing another development (Creekside) to cannibalize an existing one (Springtown w/ Target, Best Buy & JCP), or legitimately feels this is the best deal for the city. Even though I tend not to agree with him on providing incentives to retail, his is definitely an opinion we should all pay attention to.

    I did see an early proposal from the Springtown folks. It was an 80/20 sales tax agreement (developer keeps 80% of sales tax to pay debt) for what was then being discussed as a 20-year period, with progressive steps back.

    Ted, you are hitting on my exact issue with incentivizing retail & service industry jobs: low-paying, limited benefits and little, if any, multiplier effect. You get far more bang-for-the-buck by targeting primary jobs. San Marcos has become WAY to reliant on sales tax revenue, which tends to be less stable and more affected by economic trends than property values.

    Also, San Marcos can and should have entertainment districts outside of the downtown, though I see no reason to inventivize it when you have captive audiences of college students, folks attending games, and shoppers at the outlets. I would hardly call D&B the “Walmart of bars” as it does not dominate an entire sector in the cities it arrives in like Walmart can. I don’t view it as a legit threat to downtown. Downtown property owners need to start investing in their own properties. Allen Shy has done it with Harpers, and Michael Harper has with Sean Patrick’s. The two of them are examples of the types of business owners that are needed in downtown–ready and willing to invest to make quality places. Walk a block off the square in any direction and it goes to hell real fast (both private property and the streets/sidewalks). Why haven’t the downtown property owners requested a Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone or Public Improvement District? Those are two tools that can force the city to invest in downtown and help you level the playing field against new development with little/no risk to the city.

  30. I’m not sure why he would be so interested as an outsider, looking in. The time and energy he is putting into this makes me wonder if he doesn’t have an altogether different motive, like making sure the city is open to incentives for future, similar developments or making sure we don’t set a precedent that our neighbors might follow, in declining a request for assistance.

    It just seems strange. I don’t spend any time debating issues in Kyle, or Buda, or Austin, because I have no vested interest (other than the indirect impact their actions may have on San Marcos or Hays County).

  31. To clarify, I have no ownership or fee interest of any kind in Springtown.

    The developers are friends of mine, and I got involved because I did not agree with their initial development incentive request and they requested my input in structuring a program that might be more palatable.

    Not to disagree with Ted regarding the startup funding he proposes, but that type funding is far more speculative and will undoubtably result in significant losses of capital. Some of the businesses will succeed, many won’t. The loan on Springtown is secured by a first lien on the Target real estate. They are really not comparable opportunities with regard to risk capital.

  32. Perhaps, but most startups begin with only $10,000. For $100,000 apiece, we could bring some small businesses to town with proven track records, or help some that are already here and showing promise. Or, we could loan $10,000 apiece to 500 startups. If 10% of them are successful, then we have 50 new businesses and hundreds of new careers.

    Or, we could employ some people with experience starting businesses and recruit some volunteers in the form of local business owners to mentor new businesses and help identify the best prospects to receive assistance from the city.

    The Oles family, for example, have started several successful businesses in town, one employing somewhere in the neighborhood of 100 employees. I believe Garland Warren is still around, as is the McCoy family. Grande Communications was started here. The list goes on and on.

    Or, we could use the money to employ a half dozen business development experts, the people that corporations use to identify acquisition targets or businesses with whom to partner and use the balance to create incentives for the businesses that they identify as good candidates for relocation to San Marcos.

    There are any number of things we could do with that money, which I believe would yield a far greater return.

  33. Ted, it doesn’t have to be “either/or”. Work up a plan, go meet with the EDC Director, and run with it. I’m all for new business that provides good jobs.

    Just keep in mind that there is always a place for service industry jobs. We have almost 30,000 students in town, many who need part-time work to allow them to complete their education.

    And yes, I’m a real estate developer. Have been, will be. Its not a bad thing, in fact proud of it.

  34. Someday, maybe. Right now, I am nowhere near San Marcos during business hours (gotta go where the jobs are) and after hours is filled with school, TAB, neighborhood traffic issues and pretty soon training and fundraising for the MS 150 and I’m sure the Sagewood issues are likely to heat up again in a few months.

    Sadly, like the board of education, economic development is another area where I see tremendous opportunity for improvement, but I just don’t have the time required to do it right. If things go well, I may have that time in a few years, but I am hoping things will be moving along before then.

  35. No one has yet discussed the fact that if government has that much extra cash laying around, it means they OVER TAXED people in the first place! Yes, government is like fire…. stick in your hand, then your leg when you run out of worthless fiat money to feed it.

    If the Spring Town Mall is such a potentially good business venture, then anyone wanting to invest in a business there would just do it with their own start up capital! Isn’t this how you guys started a business down town? The rich already HAVE the best incentive.

    If govt. incentives are actually needed to get any business to open in Spring Town (or anywhere else), then isn’t the city hedging bad bets with OUR money? Example: Target. How much of our taxpayer dollars went into getting Target in that spot?

    Tourism? More shopping malls with part time, minimum wage jobs? How is this going to help the economy down town… or anywhere for that matter? Minimum wage jobs barely pay the gas to get to work, eat lunch and pay for a cell phone. My friends, listen up! Unemployment is over 20% (the real figures, not the Ph.D. figures). It’s going to get worse. Shouldn’t we be interested in businesses that produce the things which are needed for a community to survive!

    Shouldn’t we be focusing as a community, not about tourism and 5 million dollar taxpayer loans to the rich, but about cutting the government spending down to the basics, keeping as much money out of government and using it to converting some of our existing businesses down town and elsewhere into businesses that actually produce some of the bare necessities of life? And, businesses that will trade with gold and silver and barter, in lieu of the worthless fiat money? Textiles, food for humans and animals, care for the sick, solar energy transportation, etc. – all are needed. People KNOW how to do these things. It’s what made America GREAT! We can and must do it, and we must prevent our government from getting in the way.

  36. Service industry jobs will go away when people are hungry. I cut hair for free. People can do their own nails, get massages by a loved one, do their own laundry and house cleaning. People will be forced to do these things for themselves when this economy completely collapses.

    So, more part time jobs for college kids?

    What about the people who aren’t going to college and have families to raise? The college kids spend their PARENTS money, parents who are losing their half million dollar homes! College enrollment is DOWN. College degrees don’t make your unemployment check higher or last any longer.

    I don’t have to tell you that the Real estate business, Mr. McDonald, is going South! The bulk of foreclosures are not being returned to the market so that the price of homes stays high artificially, giving a deceptive appearance. The same is happening in the commercial real estate market as well, and you know it. Loans are harder to get and only the few at the top of the game will survive. I’ll bet it won’t be long until we see some drastic changes in sales out at the outlet mall, making the outlet mall resemble the specter of Spring Town.

    We need business that PRODUCES something that is life sustaining. Now, we can do that faster and more efficiently without government interference, and certainly without 5 million dollars being taxed right out of our pockets and our families mouths. Or, we can prepare to stand for days in the government soup line until the soup runs out, or until the rest of the soup is given to the rich as a business incentive.

  37. bella, it is Springtown, not Spring Town and enrollment is up at Texas State University, not down. You would know that, if you were from anywhere around here, but you aren’t. You should head back to layoffrant.com and concernedtaxpayer.com although you probably don’t need to pester the folks at 1800carshow.com any more.

  38. What makes you think I’m not from ‘around here’, Ted?

    I’ll visit all of those websites you posted, as I’ve never heard of any of them.

    However, your ‘change agent’, “God is government” attitude is showing.

  39. You have accounts on those sites and pretty much post the same comments, with the same writing “style” and you’ve made numerous inaccurate statements about San Marcos, some of which involve very hotly debated topics that nobody who lives here would get wrong.

    Go sell crazy somewhere else. We’re all stocked up here.

  40. BTW, Texas State University enrollment is not what I referred to. Even if TSU enrollment is bursting through the roof (and it isn’t), the reality of my statements remain unchanged.

    Yes, Government does replace God for some, doesn’t it Ted?

    What difference does it make in how to spell Springtown or Spring Town mall? I forced my computer to spell it correctly this time, but I don’t think I’m going to take the time to educate it, or you.

  41. Ted, I think that the EDC is making good progress and Amy Madison is actively pursuing the quality jobs that we all want to see come to San Marcos, but right or wrong, development incentives are here to stay. You have to pay to play in the corporate recruiting world, and there are far more communities looking for companies than there are companies looking for sites.

    As I said in an earlier post, I wish you would not consider this an “either/or”….Activity generates activity, and my opinion is that all job growth is good. We have people to fill those service industry jobs, just like we have people to fill the call center jobs that have come to town. Granted, most are lower paying positions, but some management comes with the deal and those are better jobs.

    When you get ready to work on the startup concept, email me. I will be happy to help. There are always a few “angels” out there looking for investment in startups, so a combination of private/public funds is worth considering. Whatever happened to the incubator facility over on San Antonio Street ? Is it still operating ?

  42. I believe it is still operating, but it was acquired by the San Marcos Industrial Foundation. I haven’t really heard much about their work these days, so I can’t say if they are having any success.

    I think Fred Terry may be involved at some level, but I can’t say for sure.

  43. Ted,

    You, again, are wrong in your assessment. I have never been to those sites, never posted anything on those sites, never heard of them before you listed them today. What were YOU doing there?

    Again, you are using the ‘change agent’ tactic of pettiness and false accusation to steer the conversation away from major points that either you know nothing about, believe otherwise even if you do know, and just simply can’t or won’t talk about. Seen it all a million times.

    I wonder, is there ANYTHING you can do by yourself, without government telling you what to do, which way to go, what to think and what to believe?

    I’ve been in San Marcos since the early 80’s! How long have you been in San Marcos? And tell me, what does it really matter? We aren’t going to agree on the date and time, let alone other matters of importance.

    If you think the ideas of Liberty, personal responsibility, freedom and limited government are crazy, then you must be completely insane. In fact, I CHALLENGE you to discuss even ONE area in people’s lives that you believe government shouldn’t be forbidden!

    “Any excuse will serve a tyrant”… Aesop

    The love of liberty is the love of others; the love of power is the love of ourselves . . . William Hazlitt

    “Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect every one who approaches that jewel. Unfortunately, nothing will preserve it but downright force. Whenever you give up that force, you are inevitably ruined.”

    — Patrick Henry, speech of June 5 1788

  44. I’ll just have to take your word for it. I guess those are the perils of posting anonymously.

  45. Robert, I have known Amy for a long, long time. I firmly believe she represents the first time a true economic development professional has headed economic development on behalf of the city. She has historically held a skeptical eye to incentive proposals, so her opinion carries a lot of weight with me. However, I also know she has encountered resistance to changes she has pushed. She also has a background in urban planning, which helps her maintain a holistic view rather than the myopic view that many ED folks are prone to.

    I’ve now heard from a second person that the proposal is substantially different from the one I saw, so I’m reserving judgement now for the time being. I’m still highly skeptical of giving incentives to retail/service businesses.

    By the way Robert, that old incubator is now owned by Corridor Business Incubator, a non-profit with a single employee. I haven’t heard a peep out of it in years, it seems like. I know initially it suffered from poor leadership & structure. It was a nice idea, but incubators require a lot of effort and the city really didn’t have the resources at the time to do it right. I don’t know what it is doing now. I do know that it focuses on low-moderate income entrepreneurs.

  46. I do not know what Ted’s problem is but if you (Ms. Bella) decide to run for city council, you have my vote and my financial contribution in the ballot box and the bank.

  47. Let’s see – $5 million / 50,000 people = $100.00 a piece.
    How about a $100.00 gift coupon good at any Springtown Entertainment Center business for each San Marcos resident – paid for by the developer.

  48. I have been in San Marcos since 2001. I came at 18 as a college student, and am now about to finish my Masters. I LOVE San Marcos. I try to be involved in the community. I want to stay here, buy a house, raise a family, make a difference. However, I will have to leave San Marcos to find a career. San Marcos has plenty of JOBS… We have no CAREERS.

    I really wish that our city government would try to attract more career-type jobs. (P.S. I’ve been voting in SM since ’01) I don’t even want to attempt raising a family on minimum wage. Sure, I could be a manager at one of the outlets I suppose. But that’s not really what I had in mind to do with my degree.

  49. Ted, if you think “most startups begin with $10,000” then you’re dreaming a pipe dream. It takes about a quarter million to build out and equip a small restaurant. It can take several times that to get a manufacturing operation off of the ground. The only type of business that can even come close to getting off the ground for $10,000 is a professional service business – and their benefits to the community at large are minimal at best.

    The primary reason many small business startups fail is lack of proper capitalization…..if you plan on taking $5 million and dividing it into $10,000 startups you might as well plan to burn it.

  50. Actually, it is pretty well documented that most startups begin with $10,000. This comes from surveys of the business owners.

    While it certainly may be true that lack of capitalization is what causes the failure of most businesses, I would attribute this to poor business plans, as in these cases, the owners underestimate the money that they will need.

    That being said, not all businesses are restaurants. It takes far less to start a software company, or an ad agency, etc and those are the types of businesses that, if successful, lead to careers that pay a living wage, offer benefits, etc.

    Also, as with Springtown, there is no reason to believe that the $5 million that hypothetically came from the city, would be the only source of funding. The city could easily require an equal (or multiple) investment from the person starting the business.

    I also stated that the money could be provided in larger amounts ($100,000) to a smaller number of small businesses, which had already demonstrated some success.

  51. From the Dell website: 1984 – With $1,000 in startup capital and an unprecedented idea – bypass the middleman and sell custom-built PCs directly to customers – Michael Dell registers Dell Computer Corporation.

    From Britannica.com: While working as an engineering intern at Hewlett-Packard, Wozniak designed his own microcomputer in 1976 using the new microprocessor, but the company was not interested in developing his design. Jobs, who was also a Homebrew member, showed so much enthusiasm for Wozniak’s design that they decided to work together, forming their own company, Apple Computer. Their initial capital came from selling Jobs’s automobile and Wozniak’s programmable calculator, and they set up production in the Jobs family garage to build microcomputer circuit boards.

    From Microsoft – Microsoft started in 1975 with essentially no money, when Paul Allen and Bill Gates developed the programming language BASIC for the Altair computer and sell it to MITS.

    From their Linked In profile and various news stories: 1-800-Got-Junk reportedly started with $700 and an old pickup truck. They have about 140 employees and do about $30 million per year.

    Of course, these are the exception, to say the least, as most businesses never hit these levels of success.

    Still, every day I work with small, independent software shops, translation shops, PR firms, graphic design shops, security consultants, etc, etc, etc. There is no shortage of businesses that can be started on a shoestring and a college town is a GREAT place to promote these sorts of businesses. Note that all four of the examples I listed were started by college-aged people.

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