A handful of business owners took the opportunity Thursday to take issue with leaders from the city, the Chamber of Commerce and the city's economic development agency.
Business owners from throughout the community were invited to the Orem City Council work session, but only a few showed up.Those who were there managed to fill the two-hour time frame, discussing the propriety of development agencies, State Street repairs, snow removal and license verification procedures.
Steve Densley, president of the chamber, said he was disappointed with the turnout but saw the meeting as one that should happen again.
"With the broad nature of the discussion, we left it wide open to business leaders to ask whatever they wanted. I think, like the mayor said, we should do this again."
Steve Allen, owner of Allen's Super Save Markets, questioned the role of city redevelopment agencies, which he said attract businesses that wouldn't necessarily come to the area for usual market reasons.
"We're not concerned that we have competition, but we want to compete on an even level," he said. "We didn't ask for special concessions when we began. If they can't come in on a market economy, then I question the cost to the community."
Ken Macey, owner of Macey's Sack-n-Save Markets, echoed Allen's concern by saying the cost of making concessions for new business could be that of wiping out a competing business. "I hope there would be some concern in that a fruit orchard is more appealing than a boarded-up business."
In question was development on Eighth North and 1300 South. According to Delance Squire, chairman of the Committee for the Economic Development of Orem, the Eighth North project is moving slowly, and the land on 1300 South will be under the control of a furniture store, R.C. Willey.
Squire said there was a need for a furniture store within the area, since many Utah County residents are buying furniture elsewhere.
The incentives in question were the city's plan to sell the land back for less than it was purchased. Orem Mayor S. Blaine Willes said increment taxes would make up the difference.
Among the other issues discussed at the meeting, an Orem electrician asked the city to be more diligent in finding unlicensed contractors. He said he had been told that some were using his name, without his permission, to get approval from the city to do electrical work on construction projects. "We have heard that people are taking out building permits in our name," he said. "There's an unbelievable amount of quote contractors."
Geneva Steel didn't escape discussion, as two business owners encouraged city leaders to push for clean air regulation compliance. Since Geneva is not part of Orem or any city, Willes said he had no jurisdiction. He did say, however, that Geneva's efforts to come into compliance is being underestimated. "I think they're acting in good faith. They don't receive credit for the work they've done."
Orem's State Street beautification efforts overlooked movable signs, said Gary Falwell, an Orem veterinarian. He said the signs made Orem look like some of the poorer towns in Texas.
Macey said a tree blocked a sign that cost him $45,000 and that the city should be more careful in site selection for new trees.
Two business owners complained that snow plows had blocked driveway entrances to their businesses.