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Holtzman: Business experience key to my run for mayor

March 05, 2009

To the editor:

Answering the question of how to bring jobs to Hagerstown in a stalled economy is how my experience in small business ownership will set my mayoral candidacy apart from the rest and define my time in office.

The first step is to support our current businesses. The fewer businesses that fail means fewer jobs we need to create. By using our hotel/motel tax dollars and not property tax funds, we can pay for marketing solutions and beautify our downtown.

This money could be used to rent vacant display windows as advertising space for businesses, pay for a cab voucher program to bring visitors from the our hotels into the downtown for dinner, entertainment and shopping, as well as provide advertising brochures in every hotel lobby.

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The hotel/motel tax is already being paid by each visitor when they stay in a Hagerstown hotel; I'm just suggesting that we use their money to pay for a ride downtown to spend more in our businesses.

Second, let's give tax incentives to both commercial and residential property owners to encourage renovation and development. This would immediately begin to help put our contractors back to work.

We are already giving huge tax breaks to large chain stores such as Wal-Mart, so why not pass on the same savings to our local property owners who are ready to improve their properties or develop vacant commercial space? Delaying the tax increases for improving your property improves our town and will put local people back to work. We have all heard of people who fear a tax increase if they fix up the outside of their property, so why not give them an incentive?

And for commercial property owners paying taxes on a vacant property, my hope is that this would remove one of the roadblocks for redevelopment by giving them a chance to lease the property before the taxes are increased. New development (commercial or residential) is good for our town, but more should be done for those already invested here.

New job development must be matched with skilled labor so our third step needs to be scholarships and grants for job training for our city residents.

Having a skilled workforce in place will give our town a competitive edge in attracting new industry. I would work closely with our economic development commission to involve the business community and our state elected officials to ensure that Hagerstown is doing all that it can to bring high-paying jobs to our area be ensuring that its workforce is prepared when they come.

As an experienced businessperson myself, I know the risks and rewards that draw common people like me to take a chance and chase the American dream of business ownership.

My volunteer work in the community has given me a chance to know the hurdles would-be business owners face.

From a start-up restaurant to a home-based business or contractors working out of their trucks, I will encourage the city to invest its energy in creating and expanding existing facilities and job centers to help these business get their start.

For example, a food court in the downtown area would provide a low-cost startup solution for restaurant owners and provide needed seating and the variety of foods needed for the businesses, university and the new school for the arts.

Helping home-based business move into places such as the Learning Center that provide a shared receptionist and conference area that increases a firm's professional image and its sales.

It's been said that the American business is the heart of America. As a former business owner, I have a heart for anyone willing to take chance on themselves and on our town.

Ann Holtzman is a candidate for mayor of Hagerstown.

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