Just in time for the holiday-shopping season, the Town of Oro Valley has found a way to keep sales taxes local by offering residents a gift card that goes a long way – 40 local businesses to be exact.
The Oro Valley Dollars program, launched Dec. 5, allows residents to buy a specialized gift card that can be used at participating businesses throughout the community.
Interim Town Manager Greg Caton, who is building on Oro Valley’s efforts to assist local businesses in tough economic times, thought of the idea.
“The focus is giving a gift, but instead of one store, it works on a variety of stores,” Caton said.
The big reason for the program is not only to keep residents shopping at local businesses, but also to increase sales-tax revenues.
Sales taxes are a major part of the Town of Oro Valley’s general fund, representing 47.5 percent, or just over $12 million.
Mayor Satish Hiremath said there is a direct connection between residents shopping locally, and the town’s quality of life, noting that sales-tax revenues means increased public safety, public park funding and other town services.
“We just want the residents to know how important it is to spend their money locally,” said Hiremath. “If shop locally brings us $12 million now, imagine what those numbers will look like if we just put forth a little more effort.”
Oro Valley Dollars can be purchased in denominations of $10 to $500 at the Town of Oro Valley Administration Building, located at 11000 N. La Canada Drive, Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.
After the card is purchased, residents can use the card just like a credit card at participating businesses that range between a variety of local restaurants, to fitness clubs to Big-O-Tires.
Dave Perry, president and CEO of the Northern Pima County Chamber of Commerce, said by initiating the Oro Valley Dollars program, the Town is actively taking an interest in local businesses, and it’s not all about sales taxes.
“Anything they can do to foster and promote local business is a good idea,” he said.
This isn’t the first time Oro Valley has implemented a program aimed at getting residents to shop at eat locally.
Last year, the Town Council started the Dine Out Oro Valley program, which has council members, town staff and other business owners gathering once a month at a select restaurant.
Last month, about 25 people gathered at Picazzo’s Organic Italian Kitchen, which touts a specialty menu of gluten-free foods.
Gina Izzo, Picazzo’s marketing coordinator, said having the council come to the restaurant was helpful, but having a council that realizes businesses are struggling in a tough economy, and implementing programs aimed at helping is invaluable.
“We aren’t quite signed up for Oro Valley Dollars yet, but we would have a really tough time surviving without the help of the town,” Izzo said.
Amanda Jacobs, the Town’s economic development manager, said restaurants are chosen randomly every month, and the Dine Out program has proven to be a success.
Town officials are hoping the new gift-card program will be just as successful.
The town pays for purchasing the cards, and has hired a third-party financial institution to set up all the participating businesses’ credit card systems.
The Oro Valley Dollars program will continue past the holiday season, allowing residents to buy the cards for all occasions.
The Town also hosts the Shop Oro Valley program, which is another level of promoting local businesses.