Last month, the Austin City Council took a preliminary, but noteworthy, step in supporting its small and local businesses. The council unanimously passed a resolution that will set aside $500,000 for “local business marketing and programming,” funded by the hotel occupancy tax. The Austin Independent Business Alliance (AIBA), which worked hard to secure the funding, celebrated a big win for its small business campaign.
On Aug. 31, at least four AIBA members and local business owners attended the city council meeting in support of the local business marketing fund. According to AIBA, John Kunz of Austin’s renowned Waterloo Records waited four hours to speak to the council about the resolution. AIBA’s turnout at the city council meeting was just the latest step in the organization’s long campaign advocating for the resolution. The alliance joined with other like-minded groups in the Austin community to call for local business funding, in addition to funding for parks, music and preservation.
The local business marketing fund isn’t just a win for Austin’s local businesses. It may also be a turning point for local business advocates and alliances across the country.
“The real value of this vote was the groundbreaking, official acknowledgement of the value of local business to tourism,” AIBA’s executive director, Rebecca Melancon, said in a statement. “To the best of our knowledge, Austin is the first city in the nation to devote hotel occupancy tax funds specifically to local business.”
As Melancon attests, the fund created by the hotel occupancy tax makes sense: Small and locally owned businesses bring diversity and heterogeneity to their communities, making them interesting places to live and visit. With the added funding for local marketing, Austin’s vibrant local business community can attract even more tourists to the city, which in turn boosts the economy for all Austin residents.
Still, AIBA recognizes that there is more work to do. The Austin Chronicle reported that the allocation of hotel occupancy funds divided local leaders and more analysis will need to be done before the final budget allocations are announced. In her statement, Melancon, too, cautioned that the resolution has a long way to go.
“It has to survive the rigors of the upcoming budget discussions,” Melancon said. For its part, AIBA will likely work to earn a role in the marketing and programming efforts, as the funds are not specifically designated to the alliance. Nevertheless, earning unanimous support from the Austin City Council surely warrants celebration.
To keep up with the Austin Independent Business Alliance and its budget campaign, visit www.ibuyaustin.com.