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Ceres is moving forward
Chamber leader says business growing in Ceres
Renee Ledbetter, Ceres Chamber of Commerce president, used Fridays Citizen of the Year Banquet to say things are looking rosier in the Ceres business community. - photo by JEFF BENZIGER/Courier photo

Good things are happening in the Ceres business community, Ceres Chamber of Commerce President Renee Ledbetter told Friday's annual Citizen of the Year Banquet.

Not only is the Chamber moving forward, she said, but so is the community.

"We can see a new boost in our economy," said Ledbetter.

She recounted the new businesses that made Ceres home, including WSS shoes, the Vineyard Deli, Angel's Nails, Cricket Wireless, Cruisers, Popeye's Chicken, U.S. Die Services, Image Magic Production and Western Lining Services.

Ceres will also be welcoming Wing Stop and Leslie's Pools, she announced.

Recent business expansions include Prime Shine and Classic Wine Vinegar.

"All together these and other businesses have added well over 100 new jobs to our community," said Ledbetter. "If that isn't something to celebrate, I don't know what is. I really believe we are moving forward. So our focus for this year is to strengthen what we are building upon. It goes without saying that the Ceres economy always needs strengthening."

She noted that the Chamber's "Shop Local" campaign will continue, asking residents to shift 10 percent of their shopping efforts to Ceres businesses. The message will be posted on the Whitmore Avenue billboard along Highway 99.
The message will also be promoted on website and in store with canvas bags.

Chamber events for 2015 will include the second annual Smoke on the River barbecue competition at the Tuolumne River Lodge, the March 7 Public Safety Charity Ball, the Ceres Street Faire, and summer the Concerts in the Park with a certified Farmer's Market. The Chamber is also working on a Music Series Roadshow at Ceres restaurants.
In either September or October the Chamber wants to host an artisan bazaar.

She also noted that the Chamber will be campaigning for a Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT), or a hotel tax. The Ceres City Council will be hosting a Study Session soon to examine placing the matter on the November ballot. Past efforts to pass it have failed in Ceres.

"This tax should pass without question," Ledbetter told the banquet crowd. "You don't pay this tax unless you stay at one of our hotels but the revenue it generates will allow the city to reinvest in our city services."

She concluded her remarks by saying the Chamber will be concentrating on workforce development. Last year the Chamber developed the Economic Partners in Ceres (EPIC) program to find out the needs of business. The first meeting pegged the need for the creation and sustenance of a workforce. The Chamber is working to help do that by teaming up with the Ceres school system and the Stanislaus Business Alliance.

Mayor Chris Vierra also addressed the gathering by giving updates on city activities.

Vierra noted that the city is beginning the process of updating the Ceres General Plan.

"This is a tremendous undertaking that will shape not only how our community looks but how we will become what we are for years to come," said Vierra.
The last general plan update in Ceres was about 15 years ago.

He also noted that the city is continuing to take steps in the development of the new Highway 99 interchanges for Service and Mitchell roads.

"This too is a tremendous undertaking that will be many years in the making but when completed will offer better ingress and egress to our city as well as provide many retail opportunities for our community."

The Chamber board consists of Vice President Helen Condit, past President Dustin Pack, Treasurer Robert Yockey, outgoing director Kristi Ah You, directors Ruben Alvarez, Ameet Birring, Ben Brenning, Darlene Collier, Don Cool, Nathan Dabulewicz, Paul Huckaba, Beth Hunt, Lucy Jaska, Kris Klair, Jeff LeBeouf and Joseph Wren. Ambassadors are Josie Castiglione, Steve Ledbetter, Ramon Mendez and Marti Mendez.

Membership has grown to approximately 170 members.