Congressman Larsen talks shop with city’s small business owners

Congressman Rick Larsen, business owner Gene Felton talked about the economy, local business and a little bit of golf during a surprise visit at the Star Store Wednesday. - Michaela Marx Wheatley
Congressman Rick Larsen, business owner Gene Felton talked about the economy, local business and a little bit of golf during a surprise visit at the Star Store Wednesday.
— image credit: Michaela Marx Wheatley

City officials say business in Langley is good as revenues rise

LANGLEY — A number of Langley businesses got a surprise visit from Congressman Rick Larsen on Wednesday.

Larsen, a new member of the House Small Business Committee, took a stroll in Langley’s central business district along with current Mayor Neil Colburn and future Mayor Paul Samuelson.

“Langley is one of the great small towns in the area. Part of what makes it great is the unique variety of small businesses downtown,” Larsen said.

To get a better understanding of the needs and wants of business owners, the 2nd District Democrat paid them a visit.

Once the merchants recovered from the initial shock of having Larsen and his small entourage in their shop, they chatted with the congressman about the summer business season and the economy in general.

Most reported that August had been an exceptional month for business in Langley after a sluggish spring season.

Star Store co-owner Gene Felton reported good sales.

“He was interested in how business was and what my perception of the economic climate was,” Felton said. “I told him we were busy.”

Felton said he was surprised but pleased to meet the politician in person.

“I’ve been a longtime supporter,” he said. “I was just as interested in his life as he was in mine.”

Whidbey Island Soap Company co-owner David Tiller said he was thrown off guard at first, but he said it was good seeing Larsen in town talking to his constituents.

Tiller told Larsen that sales could be better.

“The tourist traffic is just not here,” Tiller said. “It has to do with prices for the ferry and gasoline. We need that traffic here.”

Langley’s Clerk/Treasurer Debbie Mahler said last week that business activity appears to be on the upswing in Langley.

Both the hotel/motel tax and sales tax revenue is up from last year.

Sales tax revenues now total $165,893. The city budget estimated for this year in sales tax is $257,225.

“We’re $18,000 over what we brought in last year at this time,” Mahler said. “And last year was our strongest year ever.”

“It looks as though we will exceed that,” Mahler added.

“Hotel/motel taxes are also about $1,000 higher than this time last year,” she said. The city has received $42,832 so far in hotel/motel taxes.

But the city has also seen the impact of a rough winter and a slow spring.

“Moorage revenues at the harbor are down about $7,500 from what they were this time last year. We had lousy spring weather and high gas prices,” she said. “The harbor is now getting busier, so we are hoping to make up some of that.”

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