Highlights Report: Council hears economic report on potential commercial growth

“The city can't do this alone and we need the help of local business owners, citizens and the Chamber of Commerce. In the coming months, staff may recommend changes to our graffiti ordinance, take a harder stance on code enforcement issues, and – like I said before – hold out of town business owners to be more accountable for their vacant storefronts in an effort to help clean up Blythe,” said Blythe Interim City Manager Mallory Crecelius to the City Council on May 14 at City Hall. (Archived file photo by Roberto Flores/Palo Verde Valley Times)

A receive-and-file item presented to the Blythe City Council during its monthly meeting on May 14 underlined some points of interest for officials in the greater Palo Verde Valley’s economic future conversation.

As presented by Blythe Interim City Manager Mallory Crecelius, the 9-page City of Blythe & Palo Verde Valley Economic Development Planning Brief’s findings — commissioned in the fall of 2018 by the Palo Verde Economic Alliance (PVEA) to Michael Bracken of Development Management Group, Inc. — provided data to highlight the area’s potential for commercial growth.

Among the noted recommendations and steps to attract new businesses and services to Blythe included:

• Enhancing code enforcement/nuisance abatement efforts with a zero tolerance approach to public safety hazards and visual blights in the city;

• Hold out-of-town/state property owners to higher standards with respect to the condition of resident lots/properties;

• Commit to debris and graffiti removal on all public buildings;

• Place signage along the I-10 highway to introduce visitors to Blythe;

• Determining appropriate staff (city or county) to understand grant fund opportunities for park construction and/or remodeling;

• Utilize a robustly operating Chamber of Commerce to serve as a communication system (i.e. formal, informal, networking, etc.) for the resident businesses and government community;

• Communicate to business owners and investors the economic (tax) benefits of the rural Opportunity Zones.

“The 2017 Tax Bill called for the creation of Opportunity Zones in economically disadvantaged communities nationwide. California alone has approved 879 Opportunity Zone Census Tracts (there are a total of 8,057 Census Tracts in California),” states Development Management Group, Inc.’s report. “It is not likely that the mere existence of an Opportunity Zone will attract new economic investment. That said, the tax benefits can often be the ‘icing on the cake’ that will push the attractiveness of an investment into the proverbial ‘black.’”

As noted by Crecelius, the city is working on addressing some of the items in Bracken’s report but underlined the importance of community support and buy-in.

“The city can’t do this alone and we need the help of local business owners, citizens and the Chamber of Commerce. In the coming months, staff may recommend changes to our graffiti ordinance, take a harder stance on code enforcement issues, and — like I said before — hold out-of-town business owners to be more accountable for their vacant storefronts in an effort to help clean up Blythe,” said Crecelius.

Bracken’s report noted the community’s employment-type breakdown as follows:

• For-Profit Private: 4,000 (61 percent)

• Local Government: 227 (3.5 percent)

• State Government: 918 (14 percent)

• Federal Government: 73 (2 percent)

• Self-Employed: 579 (9 percent)

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