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Council talks Shop Local campaign
Officials agree citizens should remember to do business locally
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Councilman Ken Lane suggested a city billboard along Highway 99 could be used with a Shop in Ceres message. - photo by JEFF BENZIGER/Courier photo

Members of the Ceres City Council weighed in on the "Shop Local" campaign being formulated by the Ceres Chamber of Commerce.

Renee Ledbetter, president of the Ceres Chamber of Commerce, asked the council for ideas about ways the city could assist in drumming up more sales for existing Ceres businesses.

"The idea is to bring dollars that are spent back into the community in forms of services the city provides through sales tax dollars," said Ledbetter. "So what we're on a mission to do is develop some sort of public education campaign... on why it is important to shop local and support the businesses here."

She acknowledges that Ceres merchants do not sell everyone one may need but "for certain things we're asking them to start thinking on a local level."

The Chamber leader shared a number of ideas and promotions to get more business for Ceres. She said the website will feature pockets of shopping opportunities.

"It's just going to be a matter of a mindset," she said, "changing that mindset that people should shop here."

While it may convenient to shop in Modesto while there, Ledbetter said residents need to remember local merchants at home who sell the same products.
"Even if I'm in Modesto, I make it a point to say I'm coming to Ceres to shop."

A "Shop Local" sticker may be issued to merchants and Ledbetter hopes to run a media campaign that includes the local newspaper, radio spots and billboards. Ledbetter said there is an idea to use the electronic billboard north of Delhi for the advertisement of Ceres events.

Councilman Ken Lane suggested the city may be able to use the city's billboard near Whitmore Avenue for a "Shop Ceres First" message.

Ledbetter asked the city for cooperation to help track sales tax numbers as a way of educating the community about why it's important to shop in Ceres.

"Obviously we have a lot of work ahead of us," said Ledbetter.

Mike Kline, a member of the City Council, asked Ledbetter if a directory of all businesses is available "so everybody knows what's out there." While the Chamber has a member directory, it does not have an exhaustive list of all Ceres businesses. The idea resonated with Mayor Chris Vierra who noted that he has been startled at the types and varieties of businesses tucked away in industrial parks.

Vice Mayor Bret Durossette suggested seeing if Ceres participants of local youth sports organizations could be given a discount at the Hatch Road sporting goods shop.

Talk centered on the city encouraging groups which use city-owned facilities to do business with local merchants. Shane Parson, a Chamber official and owner of Embroidery Plus, said he was "really disappointed" that he was not given a shot at bidding on Ceres Youth Baseball's caps and shirts for teams and asked if the city could help. Mayor Vierra wondered if the city could ask youth sports groups to use local vendors if they use city facilities, such as Costa Field.

City Attorney Mike Lyions said the city could explore drafting provisions for local groups like CYB or CYSO do business with local businesses where feasible. But he also noted that those groups typically are looking for the best bargains, which often dictates who gets their business.

Kline expressed his personal concern about groups that ask local merchants for donations while failing to do business with them.

"There's no love in return," said Kline.

Ledbetter said floral shops also have expressed concern about the city allowing special occasion roadside peddlers and wondered if the non-profit groups could partner with local flower shops, such as setting up outside floral shops.

Vierra said he has a "little heartburn" about vendors taking away from brick and mortar floral shops' livelihood during special holidays like Valentine's Day or Mother's Day.

Community Development Director Tom Westbrook said about eight years ago the city changed the rules that said only Ceres non-profit organizations are allowed to sell flowers along streets for special events. Westbrook said those sellers have dwindled down to one or two a year.

Acting City Manager Toby Wells said the city is "limited on funds but full of energy."

He suggested everyone in the city to promote Ceres as individuals, stressing that each one can do business one by one.

Steve Hallam, the city's new economic development director, offered that the Shop Local outreach effort "makes so much sense. Ceres is a diverse community with a diverse range of local businesses. As we make everyday - and special - purchases, it's a good thing to ask ourselves if we can make that purchase right here in our hometown."

Ledbetter said the Chamber has worked hard to build the membership - added 20 since January - and is stressing "business to business connectivity" to put owners in touch with owners to maximize use of local products. She gave the example of getting restaurant owners to serve Bronco Wines since the company is based in Ceres.