Langley chamber proposes aid for small businesses

City of Langley leaders are searching for ways to support small businesses during an economic downturn caused by the coronavirus outbreak and the governor’s order to close all non-essential businesses.

Chamber of Commerce Director Inge Morascini brought two proposals before city council Monday night in an effort to address this issue.

Morascini asked for tourism funds for previously approved projects, such as the spring whale-watching season, be reallocated to the new proposals.

Both proposals use some tourism funds for development and marketing and are supplemented by funds from the Langley Chamber of Commerce.

The council agreed to approve the proposals if the state auditor and city attorney say they are legal.

The first proposal involves gift certificates with escalating value. As one example, a gift certificate purchased for $20 today will be worth $25 after a 45-day period.

“We’re looking for $3,500 of money already issued under different programs to be reallocated for this program,” Morascini said.

Gift certificates would be available for purchase on the Visit Langley website for different amounts. There would be an option to enter a zip code during the purchase to distinguish how many tourists from different areas buy the gift certificates.

“It’s good that people buy it and they hold onto it for a period of time so that it increases in value, so the exchange is not immediate with the retailer,” Mayor Tim Callison said.

Morascini added that the Village by the Sea has a constituency of people who visit often who would like to see the town “financially healthy” as well as physically healthy.

“If we stand still and don’t throw a couple of things against the wall, then we’re not moving forward,” she said.

The second proposal set forth by Morascini is to enhance the Visit Langley website by creating an online marketplace for retailers. Using shopping cart technology, business owners would be able to sell up to 10 items on the website.

Morascini was confident it would take about two weeks to improve the website and get it up and running.

Council members agreed that Morascini’s ideas were innovative, but they mused about the legality of reallocating tourism funds towards something involving virtual tourism.

Finance Director / City Clerk Debbie Mahler suggested the reallocation to be a “slippery slope.” She recommended checking the legality with the city attorney.

The council voted 5-0, adopting the proposals on the contingency that they are approved by the state auditor and the city attorney.

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