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Irvine City Council passes pro-business plan

One controversial point sent back for further work was a free gift card if one buys a car in Irvine.

March 12, 2011|By Sarah Peters, sarah.peters@latimes.com

IRVINE — City Council members last week unanimously approved a set of business-friendly initiatives.

Some of the initiatives, which encourage local purchases, will be implemented in the coming weeks, while others were sent back to city staff for review.

The council was presented with 15 initiatives intended to stimulate local business growth and consumer spending, including lowering fees and a cell phone application, at a total cost of $373,000, according to the staff report.

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The programs varied in lifetimes from three months to no specified end date.

"Many of our local businesses are doing better, but they are still hesitant to expand their operations or hire employees," said Tallia Hart, president and chief executive of the Irvine Chamber of Commerce. "These business-friendly initiatives will arm business owners with better confidence to move forward on those ideas."

However, two of the items were sent back to city staff for further review before coming back to the council for a vote in one month, while three other items were sent back with an unspecified return date.

"We should be looking not only at tools to attract businesses and tools to offset costs to businesses but ways to generate revenue in a way, in order to ensure that whatever we undertake is sustainable," Mayor Pro Tem Beth Krom said. "The truth is, three months is nice to do something, but my guess is that it's going to be a little while, for example, before the automobile industry is fully back."

One of the most controversial items discussed was the "You Auto Buy Irvine" program in which car buyers would be given a $100 or $300 Irvine Spectrum gift card for spending $10,000 or $30,000, respectively, when buying a car from a city auto retailer.

"I really appreciate that you're doing this for us," said Sam Klein, general manager of the Irvine Auto Center Nissan dealership. "The stores make out, the dealers make out and you make out. There's more tax dollars, so it's a great stimulus for all of us."

However, Councilman Larry Agran said that he didn't see how the incentive "pencils out" for the city and described the program as a "complicated coupon thing."

"I see what is in this for the auto dealers, I see what is in it by way of a subsidy for the Irvine Co., but what's in it for us?" Agran asked.

The program was sent back further development.

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