In the Chamber of Commerce’s 2013 spring newsletter, we were first introduced to the Woodmont development plan. Since then we are now being introduced with the concept of a Business Alliance, an idea of Jay Muldoon and Allison Inserro, Council Borough Members. The residents want to know why now establish this Business Alliance? What is the difference between this new proposed alliance and the Chamber of Commerce? What is the request for funds from business owners and the local government? Is there a business plan to justify this organization? What are alternatives? Who assessed the alternatives? Why didn’t that team review failed BIDs/Business Alliances? Did they review what Morristown did following the Woodmont development? Why should we all disregard the Woodmont and Whole Foods developments when trying to learn about this new entity that the Council is going to legitimize in June 2016?
What we know:
- Somerville and Highland Park used this Business Alliance concept but it is confirmed Somerville did not have a Chamber of Commerce. We still do not know why we have a co-existance of the Chamber of Commerce and Business Alliance.
- Intent is noble to restore diverse business downtown; however, the root cause of unoccupied store fronts has not been addressed and quite frankly there is denial what is the systemic issues.
- Main Street USAs built this country. Now in 2016, the Federal Government and State governments set policies that directly impact Main Street USA.
- The combination of the Big Stores (like Sams Club, Costco, Walmart etc) and the internet has made brick-and-mortar storefronts a challenge to keep customers. Small business cannot compete with price.
- Larger city populations surrounding Metuchen have directly impacted retail business.
- The lack of city planning and overdependence on the large developments in Metuchen has skewed objectivity and focus of the city’s infrastructure.
- The PROPOSAL
- Do not proceed with this romanticized Business Alliance. This was a concept in 2013, and it is not clear of the agenda or intent. The individuals who were involved with the new development in downtown have registered www.downtownmetuchen.org and www.downtownmetuchen.com as Private Registrants in March 2013, coincidently during the same time that the Chamber of Commerce’s Spring 2013 Newsletter. The roadshow meetings in January 2016 is not intended to elicit feedback. It is intended to introduce what has already been decided by the Council.
- Take the $275K and hire an independent consultant like McKinsey Consulting to assess the town’s long term strategy given the Woodmont and Whole Foods developments. McKinsey will help determine a plan to prevent Whole Foods from directly impacting the local convenience store on New Street, the bakery, the Italian delicatessen, the local liquer store, etc.
- Assess the nominal tax to the landlords in the business district but penalize the landlords if they raise rents more than the current market value. Invest this into a new Jitney bus service dedicated to bringing the residents of the town of Metuchen to the business district for shopping and train station access. This will help solve the problem of limited parking. The limited parking issue with the 2 new developers in town was not a problem solved. In fact it was created but remains unsolved.