CANTON — Canton’s Main Street Program has announced a new initiative to fill empty spaces in the city’s central business district.
The Business Development Rental Assistance Program will allow Main Street to provide rental subsidies to assist small businesses in the first year of operating.
The amount of assistance would be determined by the Main Street Program, and they will use criteria, such as the need of that business in downtown, location, term of lease, job creation and anticipated cash flow presented in a business plan as merits for awarding subsidies.
Ginger Garrard, the city’s Main Street Program director, presented the plan to the Canton City Council on Thursday.
“As a local government, we know that downtown commercial districts are essential to a community’s economic health,” she told the council. “More than shopping destinations, they are employment centers, visitor’s attractions, tax generators and historic cores.”
To fund the program, Garrard proposed the idea for the city to impose a 3 percent rental car excise tax, which she said cities are given the authority to do under Georgia law.
Garrard said surrounding cities have a rental car excise tax in place, including Woodstock, Cartersville, Johns Creek, Atlanta, Kennesaw, Milton and Marietta.
Georgia law requires those funds be used in areas such as promoting industry, commerce, trade and tourism, similar to hotel/motel taxes.
Canton has three businesses — Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Canton Auto Exchange & Rent-A-Car and Toyota Rental-Cherokee County Scion — it could tax if the proposal were to go into effect.
Garrard said Enterprise, the largest of the three, has roughly $1.6 million in gross sales. If that tax were to go into place, she said it could generate roughly $46,000 in revenue from the program.
“It’s a win-win for the city,” she said.
Mayor Gene Hobgood said any incentive to bring businesses in the city has a “lot of value.”
Councilman Bob Rush agreed, adding that incentive will increase the traffic coming into the city.
“We need to fill some of those empty holes in downtown,” he said.
Councilman Bill Bryan expressed slight hesitation, namely where would the money come from if one of the three rental car businesses were to leave town.
Garrard noted the subsidy would remain in place as long as the city has the funds to provide it.
Garrard on Friday morning added she believed this initiative will help struggling small businesses get off the ground in their first year.
As someone who owned a business in Cartersville for five and a half years, Garrard said the first year is crucial to that business’s survival.
“This is an economic development tool we can use to increase (the number of) downtown businesses,” she said. “The more businesses we have, the more people will come downtown. Everybody wins on this.”