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New businesses locating downtown may get tax breaks

Mayor Dexter McLendon has announced a bold initiative for revitalizing downtown Greenville, including sales tax refunds for new businesses and special funding for more concerts at the Ritz Theatre.

“We feel like we have to have some incentive to get businesses to move into the downtown area,” said McLendon. “And when you talk money, you get people’s attention.”

McLendon explained his initial ideas as follows:

New businesses who decide to locate in the downtown area, (defined as from the underpass to the Butler County Courthouse), would be given a sales tax break of four cents on every dollar, three cents that would be returned to the business, with one cent going into a special fund set aside for the Ritz Theatre. This tax break, said McLendon, would be in effect for three years.

The funds for the Ritz Theatre would be used to bring in additional concerts and productions as a draw for out-of-towners.

“I believe the Ritz Theatre is the key,” said McLendon. “Before a few months ago, I didn’t realize how expensive it was to put on a show there. We have to generate a revenue stream for the Ritz Theatre to allow us to have good programs there. We’ve got to venture out and give people a reason to come to our downtown area.”

Building owners who perform renovations on existing structures downtown would also receive a sales tax break. McLendon said any material or tools purchased within city limits to perform those renovations, the city would return four cents on every dollar spent.

McLendon said the goal, at least in the first year, is to focus on bringing in new businesses to downtown. In the years that follow, the city could look at existing businesses and what could be done to help them, he said.

“This is basically the same thing we did when went out and got Hysco and Hwashin, but this is for our downtown,” McLendon said, alluding to the economic incentives the city offered to lure Hyundai suppliers to Greenville in 2003.

McLendon reiterated this plan was not “set in stone” and asked for help and ideas. He addressed Chamber of Commerce board members, representatives with Greenville Main Street, and city council members with the plan during a special meeting held on Monday night at the Greenville-Butler County Library.

The city has been compiling information on building owners and existing businesses in downtown Greenville and McLendon said a larger meeting is planned for May.

“We want all the business owners, all the property owners to come to this meeting,” he said.

Jan Newton, owner of the Chef’s Table, said she believed the city was on the “right path” with the plans for downtown.

“My suggestion is to have something like Farmer’s Market that would be visible to the people and draw them downtown,” she said.