CHAPEL HILL – Carrboro prides itself on having a locally driven economy, “big box” stores which are moving into Orange County could threaten the prosperity of small business.
At WCHL’s Carrboro Board of Aldermen Candidate Forum Monday, hopefuls were asked what they think the Town should do to support local businesses over the course of the next two years.
The five candidates competing for three open seats on the Board include incumbents Sammy Slade, Jacquelyn Gist and Randee Haven-O’Donnell. The challengers are Kurt Stolka, Vice-Chair of Carrboro’s Transportation Advisory Board, and Al Vickers, a former member of the Solid Waste Advisory Board with a Ph. D. in environmental science. Vickers was absent from the Forum Monday due to a prior engagement out of the country.
***Listen to WCHL’s 2013 Carrboro Board of Aldermen Candidates Forum***
Slade said the Board should push to raise awareness that investment in local businesses is beneficial through the re-circulation of money in the community. He explained that the quarter-cent sales tax would prove to play a key role in funding economic development incentives.
“We have a huge opportunity with the recent passing through a bond referendum of the quarter-cent sales tax that’s going toward economic development,” Slade said. “It is a significant amount of money that we need to, and I have been constantly asking the county to put toward supporting locally-owned businesses and import substitution.”
Stolka echoed a comment made by Slade during the forum that Carrboro’s locally-grown food products and cycling tourism were opportunities to boost the economy and should be encouraged.
“The amount we drive has a huge impact on how much money stays locally. Eighty-five percent of every dollar we spend leaves the local economy,” Stolka said. “I think really investing in a plan to start charging for parking, to get people to reduce their driving and [promote] walking or cycling will really keep more dollars local.”
Gist said it was a great achievement that the Board formulated a creative solution to incentivize Fleet Feet to keep its Corporate Headquarters in Carrboro. She also maintained that free parking is a way to attract people downtown.
“I also think that we need to keep parking free as we continue to push for more alternative transportation—better bikes and buses,” Gist said. “We also need to make sure that when people come downtown, they can afford to park and spend their money down there.”
Haven-O’Donnell said the arts were a thriving part of Carrboro’s economy and played a pivotal role of attracting people Downtown.
“Some of the plans that are unfolding for Carrboro’s downtown will take advantage of the broadband and the entrepreneurial and professional services in arts and innovation potential that we have,” Haven-O’Donnell said. “We are really at the threshold right now of a very new look and feel to business downtown.”