As times change it is important to understand how city budgets work and the need to adjust income to meet the ever growing needs of the community. Manhattan Beach faces many challenges over the coming years. Meeting these opportunities without scaling back services being offered will be important to grow the income of the city. There are two main areas where the city derives most of its income, the first being property taxes which have steady, but not tremendous percentage growth year over year. The second would be through the business community by way of licenses, permits, transient occupancy tax and sales tax. No one wants to see fees raised on businesses in what is already a unfriendly business climate in California, so how do you grow revenue?
First it is important to understand the challenges the city will face with an aging workforce, infrastructure improvements, and a growing population. The aging workforce is probably of most concern since a majority of the current staff will be eligible to retire within the next decade. This will lead to not only having to recruit, train, and develop new talent, but also to increased contributions needed for retirement. Infrastructure is always one of those things people do not think about until there is a water main break, such as the one in LA this past summer, but is costly to update if it goes unnoticed. With street, storm water and lighting improvements coming down the pipeline there are major expenditures coming as well. A growing population taxes the current infrastructure and hastens the need for repairs, but it also leads to the need for more services and staff.
The City of Manhattan Beach has a current operating budget just north of $60 MM annually and a separate Capital Improvement budget. Each of these figures will need to grow to meet the needs discussed above and that is something the Manhattan Beach Chamber is proactively attacking. We are looking at this from four main ways that we can help drive a solution to the issue: 1) Programming, 2) Recruitment, 3) Advocacy, and 4) Educating. Each offers a unique set of tools for not only the business community, but the City and residents alike.
Many of you are probably most familiar with the programming we do as it is something you get to tangibly touch and hopefully attend. Over the past two years the Chamber has added many new opportunities for the business community to attract new business. These new initiatives include DineMB, Bite at the Beach, Manhattan Beach Business Expo, as well as a number of other events. DineMB generated more than 200 million impressions outside of this market driving new awareness to the offerings of Manhattan Beach. Bite at the Beach saw more than 700 attendees sample local restaurants, with more than 60% of attendees coming from outside the South Bay. The Manhattan Beach Business Expo was an opportunity for residents to better understand the product offerings here in Manhattan Beach and see some for the first time. Each of these events is designed to create awareness, reach a new customer base, and grow the city sales tax revenue. DineMB is the only initiative that directly affects the sales tax taken at the time of the event but each other event has generated a new customer base for the community. This coming September we will launch Manhattan Movie Nights at the Manhattan Beach Marriott, which will also bring in about 700-1,000 people per screening from outside the community.
Recruitment of new business is one of the things many residents and some business owners do not see directly and therefore do not understand the impact it has on them. The staff at the chamber is pursuing every opportunity to highlight the offerings here in Manhattan Beach to influential professional organizations. We have held many familiarization tours for destination marketing companies, allowing them to sample and test the products and services in Manhattan Beach. Many of these organizations book thousands of rooms a year, which translates into 10’s of thousands of room nights, people eating in restaurants and shopping in stores. When we bring these groups in to town they generally check out the lodging accommodations, sample a couple of restaurants and peruse a few stores. When they bring their clients back they will be the ones to on average spend more than $100 per day on food and other services above their hotel stay. For every new room night sold in Manhattan Beach the city stands to take in $22 per night, between hotel and sales tax.
While many will never fully appreciate what advocacy can impact, it enables business to not only grow, but to also thrive in sometimes unfavorable markets. One of the best examples of advocacy is what the Texas business community was able to do with the State’s Legislature over the past ten years. They knew there was an issue on the horizon and they fought for every incentive they could offer corporations. In the long run Texas is one of the places we have watched many of our local jobs head off to, Toyota being one of them. While we are not lobbying for incentives, as the California Legislature is less than business friendly, we are working on a number of serious issues. One issue we have been vocal on and continue to discuss is the idea of separating out corporate and residential property taxes. One change that was proposed, and we have lobbied against, would have led to a mass exodus of jobs out of this state. On a more local level we have been working with the city closely on developing long term zoning standards, design and infrastructure plans, as well as implementing a specific plan.
The final approach we have taken is educating everyone from the newest resident, the most tenured city employee, to the growing business on what is coming and what is needed. Some of the new channels we have added are a weekly radio show, quarterly business journal, revamped website, and a mobile app. Each of these tools provides increased opportunity to reach the base who can help make a difference. When there is an issue such as the downtown zoning initiative it is important to get everyone engaged. Sometimes people will come to the table after the fact and say they had no idea it was even going on. Our goal is to get as much information in everyone’s hands so a strong dialogue can take place. Only through discourse can there be a true resolution and plan developed. It will take this entire community to make the right decisions for generations to come.
While Manhattan Beach has been tremendously successful over its first 100 years, it will take all of us to ensure it is successful through the next 100. The Manhattan Beach Chamber is determined to make sure the city and its residents have the resources necessary to continue the pace we have set. Manhattan Beach is the envy of many cities and has some of the greatest minds that could be gathered into a population of less than 40,000. Working together I am sure we can develop increased programming to highlight the great qualities about our city, recruit new customers, and enjoy the beach and services surrounding us.
Written by: James O’Callaghan, President/CEO of Manhattan Beach Chamber