Shop Simi Valley Campaign Working?

Two years ago, I was critical of the annual budget of $100,000 allocated to the Shop Simi Valley First campaign. To me, it seemed like an extreme amount of money on a campaign whose results are near impossible to measure. For example, is a spike in local shopping and tax revenue a result of a successful Shop Simi Valley First campaign or the outcome of a restoring economy/tax refund season/Holiday shopping season? How can you really know for sure?

A recent study discussed in the Ventura County Star indicates that I might be wrong in assuming the campaign’s success was not measurable. According to this study, the campaign is working, or at least it has been for the past three years. The specifics of the study are important. Let’s take a closer look at the facts first by concentrating on this portion of the VCSTAR article:

The marketing campaign was launched in 2004 to increase shopping in Simi Valley. About 25 percent of the city’s general fund comes from sales taxes.

The study results were based on interviews conducted in May with 300 Simi Valley residents 18 or older.

Research company owner Bill Davis told the committee the study found that since 2007, the last time a study was conducted on the campaign, public awareness of the Shop Simi First slogan has grown from 46 percent to 72 percent.

Obviously, 300 Simi Valley residents is a far cry from the real population, but I still believe the study is credible. It’s likely that the 300 residents represented multiple age groups, occupations and income brackets for a fair representation of the city’s population. There are more scientific ways to represent a fair average of a larger population, but we can assume the focus group was diverse.

The results include:

* In 2007, 34 percent of respondents said the slogan had affected their willingness to shop locally. This year, that number jumped to 44 percent.

* In 2007, 42 percent of respondents said they did not purchase outside Simi Valley. This year, that number grew to 47 percent.

* But the number of respondents who said they made purchases outside Simi Valley, 51 percent, stayed the same.

Looks good, right? Naturally, the next question is how did this increase in awareness of the program effect the city’s bottom line? Like before, I want to know if that a measurable metric or if it’s always going to be something that remains an unknown. Considering human nature, we can all be aware of what’s best for our local economy, but we’re ultimately going to make a decision that works best for us as individuals. This has to do with product availability, product selection and pricing. If selection is greater in another city and prices are cheaper in another city, that’s where the shoppers are going to go. Is Simi Valley a bedroom community like it’s been referred to for years, or is it changing into a shopping destination? Of those two, what do we want it to be?

I’m a believer in shopping locally. If you check the top right corner of this website, you’ll always see the Shop Simi Valley First logo prominently displayed. But until we know for sure how well this is working for our city, I would still prefer to limit the budget on this campaign and see the Chamber of Commerce step in as the primary owner of this effort.

Glen Becerra Jumps on Shop Simi Opportunity

I am absolutely delighted by the recent news regarding Glen Becerra’s efforts to bring outside dollars into the City of Simi Valley!  This is truly what it’s all about right here.  If you haven’t already heard, here’s the deal… and I hope you love this just as much as I do.

In response to the increase in sales tax to LA County residents who are paying nearly 10 cents on the dollar for every taxable purchase, Glen Becerra has invited our neighbors to shop in Simi Valley and enjoy the unchanged sales tax rate.  This is an impressive move, not just because of the powerful message, but also because Councilmember Becerra paid for a sizable ad in the Daily News out of his own private campaign funds!

Here’s a partial view of the ad, specifically the top portion of the ad that was published in the Daily News:

Glen Becerra's Shop Simi Ad

Here is a piece of the press release on the topic, also released today:

“Working families can’t afford to have their taxes raised and are struggling to make ends meet already,” said Becerra, a three-term Councilman for the city of 126,297 northwest of the San Fernando Valley and Los Angeles.  “Many people are unaware of the discrepancy in the sales tax level between the counties.  Many people are unaware of Simi Valley’s low sales tax.  Some aren’t aware of the great shopping and dining opportunities that Simi Valley offers.

“And public officials underestimate the true impact that sales tax increases have on shoppers, working families, businesses and the economy.  But that should change soon.  A quote in Tuesday’s paper by a shopper about the newest sales tax increase says a lot.  He said, ‘It’s not a good idea now.  I will shop less.’ “

To Councilmember Becerra: Thank you!  I really like your style!  This is a terrific idea!

Glen Becerra offers a downloadable copy of the ad that you can see for yourself at the following link.  Check it out here:

Simi Valley and Local Businesses

Ted Mackel published one of the most interesting articles I’ve read related to the City of Simi Valley and how they work with local businesses.  As a local business owner, I definitely found his take interesting.  His first point grabbed me immediately…

The Future of Simi Valley Retail is under attack and round one will prove to be tough reality for Simi Valley as the Thousand Oaks Mall will again take shoppers away from local businesses.

It’s an excellent point.  Rumor has it, the Oaks Mall began its redesign phase in direct response to the potential threat to its business resulting in new area malls, namely Simi Valley Town Center.

The opening of the Simi Mall was a well celebrated event in our town, promising an influx of new sales tax dollars to Simi Valley’s general fund.  Of course, small business owners, like Bruce Witkin (former candidate for Simi Valley mayor) were disenchanted by the idea of a mall that takes shoppers from the smaller strip malls and plants them in the Town Center mall, despite the increase tax revenue to the city.  You see, this particular example of increased tax revenue represents a potential loss to small business owners who aren’t in the mall, including restaurants.  Remember Hudson’s Grill?  Who’d have ever expected that restaurant to close?  But they did, and the reason they cited was the loss in foot traffic resulting from the new mall.

Ted goes on to discuss not only the Oaks Mall redesign, but also the Topanga Mall’s planned enhancements as well…

Something this exciting and this large will definitely draw shoppers out of Simi Valley and no matter how much our Chamber of Commerce and our City Council fight to convince Simi Valley residents to “Shop Simi Valley First”,  these two modern and behemoth projects (TO & Westfield) that bookend our town cannot be willed away.  This is like trying to hide and elephant under the living room carpet.

Give the article a read by clicking here.  It’s not a message of doom, but rather a few suggestions from someone with a few generations of real estate development under his belt.

City Officials Manage Budget Effectively

Weeks ago, I sat in the City Council meeting anxious to hear news about the city budget, knowing the city was pressured to cut just more than 3 million dollars from the budget without eliminating jobs.  City employees sat near me, even more anxious, seemingly unsure where things stood.

City Manager Mike Sedell began going through the proposed budget modifications line by line, with brief explanations of the impact of each decision.  For example, when we heard the DARE program was being cut, Sedell quickly clarified that the cut was not a permanent removal of the program, but rather a postponement.  DARE would begin again later in the year and the city would look at ways to reduce the expense.  Even Mayor Miller suggested having the program led by a retired officer rather than pulling an office out of the field.

Programs like Shop Simi Valley First will certainly be effected, though I can’t recall specifically whether or not it was mentioned that night at the council meeting.  In the past, I’ve been critical of the city’s spending on this program, not because the program itself is a bad one, but rather because I believe with the vested interest of business owners, the cost of the program should be a shared cost.  It will be interesting to see how organizations like the Chamber of Commerce step-up during this crisis to ensure the program stays alive.  It should be noted that if the city or the Chamber are looking for volunteers, here I am! 🙂

In economic situations like these, I couldn’t be more delighted to see how important it is to the city to retain their employees.  Unemployment is the harshest aspect of a recession, making things much worse before they get better.  The City of Simi Valley has done an amazing job of keeping people employed.  I read the following in the Ventura County Star the other day:

Some of the people in the positions eliminated already had planned to leave their jobs. Others were sent to different city assignments, officials said.

Simi is waiting for an eventual resolution to the state’s fiscal crisis, and “it will undoubtedly bring further damage to the revenue which we rely upon to provide services to our residents,” Sedell said.

Sedell said Simi officials have managed taxpayers’ resources well, and unlike state legislators, haven’t overspent.

“We will find a way to provide the quality local services that residents have come to expect,” Sedell said.

Read the whole article online here.

Cheers to the City of Simi Valley for a job well done.

Simi Valley Headlines and Issues

In the Simi Valley Acorn this morning:

In response to the idea of a $100 donation from every household for the schools, I think it is a start, but not enough.

Meanwhile, we all wonder how the C4 Bond Funds are being spent and people like me wonder if they’ll have the chance to sit on the oversight committee.  Learn more about that by clicking here.

Also in the Acorn: City will hear latest findings on Runkle Canyon

According to a letter sent to the city in October, the agency has concluded that “additional work is necessary to better define environmental conditions at the site and to address one or more potential threats to public health and the environment.”

From what I’ve read so far, the so-called Radiation Rangers that are protesting the development of Runkle Canyon strike me as hysterical people attempting to sell fear.  I’ve seen no solid evidence to support either claim of clean or contaminated.

I had originally planned to be there with my camera on documenting the happenings on Monday night.  Unfortunately, I’ll be flying out to Cincinnati on business that day.  I’ll have to catch the “re-run” on the city’s website.

Oaks Mall Expansion Opens Tomorrow

Holiday shoppers will want to load up their wallets and put on their comfortable walking shoes because the two-level, open-air expansion at The Oaks mall will be awaiting them tomorrow, Nov. 15

This is bad news for those who are heavily invested in the Shop Simi Valley First campaign.  I’ve heard the new mall is gorgeous.  I’m curious to know how the city’s $100,000 Shop Simi budget is going to keep holiday shoppers in Simi Valley Town Center this holiday season.