Blending the city’s tourism industry with downtown businesses was the main theme of the second Business Summit Thursday.
Abilene city officials hosted the second summit of 2013 at the Civic Center with the intention of hosting two each year, one in the spring and one in the fall.
“We want to create a better link between tourism and downtown retail establishments,” City Manager David Dillner said at the summit before about 35 people. “We want to create a special tourism/commerce district, within the downtown.”
One of the ways to accomplish that goal is through tax incentives.
At the first Business Summit last spring, the city outlined its economic plan.
“The first business summit was saying, ‘OK, here’s the plan that this process has come up with,’” Dillner said. “The follow up will be future business summits to provide an update in terms of the status of that plan.
“One of the focus points was retaining existing businesses,” he said.
One way to do that, Dillner said, is to keep the 80,000 to 120,000 visitors to the Dwight D. Presidential Museum, Library and Boyhood Home in Abilene longer.
One way he suggested is to develop a passport program where visitors receive awards and discounts for each tourist location or business visited. The city’s trolley would make a good vehicle for transportation.
“If you think about all the things you can do in Abilene, you probably can’t do it all in one day,” he said.
Dillner talked about the city’s three main goals of retaining and attracting businesses, housing and events.
“As a tourist community, it is very important for Abilene to have events,” he said.
Dillner outlined an Enhanced Downtown Revitalization District offering 10-year tax breaks to businesses that improve their facilities, a revolving low interest loan program and historic tax breaks.
“We have to provide an environment that invites you (tourists) and really defines where your tourist experience should be directed,” he said.
One of the ways to do that is to revamp the city’s streetscape plan. The city commissioned a plan that would have cost an estimated $4 million.
“It gets revised on a much smaller scale,” he said.
He said many of the buildings downtown have a ground floor and an upstairs. Some have basements.
“What this plan envisions, these buildings would be rethought-out. The ground floor would basically be your retail establishments. The upstairs would be either residential space or office space,” he said.