City officials expect the opening of Carson Valley Plaza in north Douglas County to cost Carson City about $500,000 a year in sales tax revenue.
To stem the tide, city officials and concerned residents are proposing a new campaign, called "Shop Carson City," to stimulate retail business and keep sales tax dollars here.
"This is an effort to get a consortium of commercial and retail interests to underwrite a program focused on the benefits of shopping in Carson City," said Joe McCarthy, economic development/redevelopment manager.
The Carson City Foundation would be a nonprofit organization made up of Carson City businesses and the proposed marketing campaign would include newpaper, radio and television promotions focusing on Carson City's assets, said Miya MacKenzie, chairwoman of the three-member group organizing the proposal.
"Businesses will be asked to contribute, both monetarily and with their time, to create an advertising and public relations campaign," she said. "Carson City does such a nice job of creating events. Our main focus would be centered around those events, using them to draw people here. We'll also be letting people know they can find almost anything they want right in Carson City."
Mackenzie, Keith Shroy, director of marketing for Calculated Industries, and David Campbell, a Fulbright scholar and associate professor emeritus in marketing from Valdosta State University in Valdosta, Ga., are looking at the concept.
They expect to start approaching business owners as early as October and, if all goes well, the marketing campaign could start as early as the spring of 2004, MacKenzie said.
The idea has worked in the past.
Doreen Mack, founder of a similar organization that includes 16 businesses in Telegraph Square, said she welcomes the effort, but it is very difficult to coordinate businesses that are divided geographically.
She said foot traffic has improved drastically since the group was formed about four years ago. Special events and marketing have been the key to success.
"Something like this works when a group of businesses have the same goals," she said. "In our group, everyone is involved and everyone has input. We brainstorm over ideas together and that's why it works. If Carson City businesses don't support this, it won't work."
She said box stores pull business away from the city's core.
"Without a downtown business district, this would be a scary place to live," she said. "People need to understand that."
Local businessman Dan Mooney, who proposed the campaign, said officials are aware of the problems and businesses in the downtown corridor alone wouldn't have the money for a proposal of this scope.
"We've listened to all the criticisms and we know it's not going to be easy to get everyone into a consortium," he said. "But those things that have the highest risk also have the highest pay-back."
According to a study by the University of Nevada, Reno in 2002, 58 percent of Carson City's residents believed there was a smaller selection of merchandise in Carson City than in Reno or Douglas County. Concerning at least two retail areas, Mooney challenged that assumption.
"For those who need office supplies, there's nothing they can't buy in Carson City," he said. "For those who need hardware, we have five or six major outlets. People don't have to go across the (county) border. That's the message we want to get across. Shop Carson City, because the merchandise is here."