Buy a car, get a gift card? Libertyville might try small business promotion program again

A promotional program designed to market car dealerships and help small businesses in Libertyville may be coming in the fall.

Under the program, similar to those offered in 2009 and 2015, car buyers would receive a certificate paid for by the village to be used at local businesses.

"Car dealers are not allowed to provide a gift or a giveaway in exchange for a vehicle purchase," Economic Development Coordinator Heather Rowe explained during a recent village board finance committee meeting. "The idea here is that the village is doing the promotion."

As envisioned, the village's maximum expense would be $75,000. In 2015, the total village cost was $20,169 of the $74,500 budgeted.

Trustees were receptive but cautious as the impact of COVID-19 continues to play out on village revenues.

"I like the concept. I just want to be careful of the timing," said Trustee Rich Moras, finance committee chairman.

"We should seriously consider this and hopefully be in a position we feel comfortable to do this in the fall," he said. "My expectation is we'll get a much better handle on the numbers in the next two months."

The village's economic development commission recommended the program be considered pending the availability of funding as well as vehicles. Production was reduced because of plant closings due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Mile of Cars is composed of 13 dealerships mainly along Milwaukee Avenue. Dealers are on board with the idea, Rowe said. They would prefer to proceed in the fall but are open to early 2021 if village funding is uncertain.

"We need to do this sooner rather than later," Trustee Pete Garrity said.

In the 2015 program, the first 30 customers who bought or leased a new vehicle in July were eligible to receive certificates from the village good through Oct. 31 at 80 participating businesses.

Residents received certificates valued at $200 and nonresidents $100 in $25 increments. According to the village, 90% percent of the vouchers were completed by nonresidents, which was regarded as a strong tool to attract out-of-towners to village businesses.

As part of the program, dealers also donated about $28,000 to local charities.

The village board would have to make a supplemental appropriation to the current budget, which began May 1. The possibility of using federal COVID relief funds, which permit reimbursements for economic development programs, also is being investigated.

Rowe said based on the board's reaction, she'll start discussions with the Mile of Cars to formulate the program and timing.

Libertyville approves incentive for car dealership

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