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Businesses Defend Jammin' Funding

Numerous business owners came out Tuesday night to argue for funding as the third and final year of construction looms in 2013.

The final year of Janesville Road construction is scheduled for 2013, and with that, the city will likely fund the Jammin on Janesville events for another year at the same levels it's seen in the past two years, but not without more debate.

Business owners came to the Committee of the Whole meeting Tuesday night to speak out for continued funding of $19,000 in 2013, which helps to offset the cost to market the event. Two previous COW meetings had left doubt that the summer event would see the same level of support from the city, with several aldermen concerned that the amount was too high.

Dan Koehler, incoming president for the Muskego Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism said the businesses still need the city's help, as they are already contributing their own funds to help promote themselves in the face of major road construction. He also said the event does not make money for the Chamber, but in the last year they lost approximately $1,800.

"We need to rely on the city's even, balanced support for these events," he said. "They help to increase awareness of the businesses and services available and thereby increase commerce to the city."

He also said that the Chamber was discussing the future of the event, indicating that they would "completely finance beyond 2013" the summer street festival.

Earlier meetings had aldermen asking for harder numbers to show that there is an impact being made during and since the Jammin' on Janesville events for businesses. Andrew McKee, owner of Domino's, appeared with his experience in hopes of providing the specifics.

"I do have unique data available that perhaps other businesses don't in that Domino's has had 1,100 stores over the past 10 years that have had similar circumstances of construction," he said. "What they averaged was a 38 percent loss in total sales, and less than 100 stores suffered less than a 10 percent loss."

Conversely, he said the Muskego Domino's saw a 31 percent jump in sales, which had never happened among any of the stores in the chain. The company has since asked other stores to model what was done in Muskego to prevent a downturn in sales, McKee said.

Rob Lucas, owner of Music 2 Move You and a participant in the events, was more direct with the council members. He told them, "if you want to be positive and attract business, this is a great way to show business you support them, and you should know that other businesses are looking at Muskego as well. If you're going to snub businesses in this final year of construction, what does that say?"

However, the council members struggled with the issue of funding organizations, despite Mayor Kathy Chiaverotti's insistance that Jammin' and other events like the Community Festival Parade, which receives 100 percent funding, are civic events that support the community.

"The feedback I've received from the residents in my district is that government shouldn't be giving money to these organizations because we're doing more harm to them than good," said Alderman Dan Soltysiak. He said he felt funding kept organizations from fitting their programming with their budgets, and once government funding is pulled, the organization or event struggles.

While some aldermen stated their residents didn't want to foot the bill for the event, Lucas added that businesses help provide a better balance to the tax burden on residents, and the city has an interest in making sure they survive.

Others defended the position of the city as pro-business.

"I feel we do support businesses, and are always looking at economic development; we are spending money on additional staff to help implement the marketing plan, but we don't have unlimited funding," said Alderman Kert Harenda.

Three of the aldermen - Neome Schaumberg, Rob Wolfe and Elaine Madden, said they had changed their mind given the additional information that had been given during the meeting. They generally sided with Neil Borgman, who had stated previously that the commitment was that the funding was to cover all three years of construction "to help businesses survive."

However, Soltysiak was adamant that the city has invested enough money for businesses, stating, "we're spending $7 million on Janesville Road for streetscaping - we don't have to do that. That's a lot of money we're spending to make that road look nice for the businesses."

The comment drew a negative response from the business owners there, and Chiaverotti disagreed, saying that the investment was for the entire community.

Madden called Soltysiak confrontational with the businesses, and said she felt the $19,000 was money well spent.

"I think the publicity the city gets from the event is worth the $19,000 alone; it sends a great message to those outside the community as well," she said.

The final straw poll taken saw a narrow 4-3 approval, with Harenda, Soltysiak and Alderman Rob Glazier opposing.

Muskego Mike October 14, 2012 at 03:37 PM
$19,000 is a lot of money. This was really a great idea during construction but in 2014, the city needs to be done. If the community wants to continue, that sounds like a great plan. I wonder how much money Franklin puts into the St. Martins Fair. (they charge a permit fee to participate).
Matt Johnson October 14, 2012 at 07:22 PM
Should the city have purchased property for over a million dollars that has no economic value to the city or should the city spend about $50k on a park that most residents don't use or many don't even know where it's located? It was a three year commitment and the city should keep that promise. In the future, Jammin should be modified but the city should give something to it as it is a civic event and it does help promote the city.
Gregory Kluck October 14, 2012 at 09:59 PM
I agree with the good Dr. I think some of the businesses generated a sense of goodwill to the community and also awareness of the downtown area's business contribution to the greater benefit of Muskego. Although some cannot measure that benefit by direct dollars or pizza, I donated my DJ service work to a church participant in JOJ and although no money was made by myself, the actual benefit earned me two functions later in the year.
Denise Konkol October 14, 2012 at 10:51 PM
Greg, your story is part of what the aldermen are looking to hear. If an economic impact is being made one way or another, it helps them make an informed decision.
Andrew McKee October 16, 2012 at 02:21 AM
I would like to address some of the comments here. While I was fortunate enough to generate "Record Sales Weeks" during the construction. Particularly after the first JoJ event; I did not generate record profits. I actually broke even over a three week period, in which each week was a successive record week. Why did I just break even? Re-investment! Everything I made over those three weeks went to pay for additional staffing, and the rest went for further advertising. This is an event in which a business will get out of it what they put into it. The strip mall we are located in, we all did well. But I will say I feel as though our effort level was rather high in comparison...also our commitment of funds was high as well. We had print, mailings, and a band. All were separate from what the Chamber was doing. This was IN ADDITION to what was done with and through the Chamber of commerce. When people have asked me how did I maintain a high sales level throughout the construction period I tell them this: "Community involvement! Make a genuine effort to be a part of the community, and the community will ALLOW and WELCOME you to become part of it." I believe in my business and my community, it is why I made a move to purchase my location here. While I have metrics to show what was gained/lost. What I KNOW was most important was the goodwill this event created. This was a community event and I was honored to be a part of it.

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