This year marks 45 years of “Celebrating St. Helena,” the Chamber’s annual event which began in 1971 as a way to recognize those in our community who continue to make it better.

Mark your calendars for this year’s event on Friday, March 3 recognizing our 2016 honorees: Business of the Year: Clif Family Winery; Citizen of the Year: Stacey Bressler; Employee of the Year: Jimmy Adams of Sunshine; and Non-Profit of the Year: Soroptimist International of St. Helena. While the actual event has morphed over the years from a summer picnic, to wintertime dinner and dancing, from riding the Wine Train to Restaurant Roulette, this year, we wanted to create an event that concentrates on bringing the business community and the residents together.

Our theme “Engage, Connect and Honor” not only recognizes our Community Service Honorees but is an opportunity for business leaders to showcase their businesses at a networking reception, for St. Helena neighbors to mingle with guests and each other, to honor St. Helena’s best with a luncheon catered by St. Helena’s own, Tres Posti and to learn more about one of Napa Valley’s finest wineries, HALL Winery.

Save the Date: Friday, March 3, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tickets are $55 per person. To have your business represented at the reception, please email us at admin@sthelena.com. For more information, go to sthelena.com/chamber.

It’s time for an improvement district

Over the last couple of years, the Chamber along with our subsidiary, the St. Helena Renaissance Foundation, has worked for improvements to downtown St. Helena through fundraising and small projects such as replacing trees along Main Street, supplying trash cans, tree grates and benches. Renaissance also has taken the lead on the holiday décor for downtown.

It has been a challenge to constantly fundraise for improvements that occur in other towns through their city’s Public Works department. In St. Helena, lack of city revenues prevents us from implementing our ongoing improvement plan and stalls efforts. St. Helenans and especially businesses have been extraordinarily charitable, however, even the most solid supporters become weary over time.

At the same time, as Chamber CEO, I have had the opportunity to attend conferences by Main Street Alliance, an organization dedicated to preserving small town’s character and “Main Street” commerce all over the country. What I have learned is that Main Streets all over are changing and we face similar obstacles. Here in St. Helena, we have the added struggle with not enough revenue to pay for improvements.

We also lack a long range Economic Development plan that could put us on a path to sustainability. Given that, to get a sense of what is happening in other communities, I have also attended regional Economic Development conferences addressing concerns of cities who are feeling the pinch as state and county jurisdictions take more and more from the revenue pie.

The Chamber, recognizing the dire financial situation that the city currently faces, continues to participate in the city’s revenue discussions and wants to offer solutions.

One of the solutions I have seen in action are Improvement Districts in areas where taxes alone are not sufficient to provide services. There are various ways Improvement Districts can be formed and many ways for them to assist cities. This idea is not the Chamber’s alone, there are more than 1,500 Improvement Districts throughout the country and forming an Improvement District is encouraged in both the current and the new draft version of St. Helena’s General Plan.

In discussing the idea of Improvement District for St. Helena with various commercial property owners in and around the city’s limits, a coalition was created and has invested in the idea. We have spent several months developing the plan within the parameters of the California PBID law and using a consulting team who has implemented districts all over the country and we are finally ready to have it vetted and eventually implemented.

This week, the Chamber begins our formal efforts to advocate to City Council for establishing a Property Based Improvement District (PBID) in the greater St. Helena area. As a public/private sector benefit assessment district, a PBID maintains a role as a stable funding source for businesses and property owners to enhance and market themselves and achieve a community’s economic goals while creating improvements in the city.

A PBID is a proven, secure funding source to fulfill the community’s needs without compromising our natural environment. The Greater St. Helena PBID will maintain a role as a stable funding source to support the community’s economic goals while creating enhancements in the city and community we call home.

We all understand the need for responsible planning and economic development to ensure we can sustain the quality of life and business environment we all enjoy in our community. St. Helena’s economy, good or bad, affects your property or business, whether it resides within city limits or not.

The Greater St. Helena Property Based Improvement District will include projects that provide tangible benefits to parcels in the greater St. Helena area, including portions of the City of St. Helena and unincorporated Napa County along Highway 29 and adjacent streets.

Without the Greater St. Helena PBID, improvements and critical projects that impact our economic success remain undone. Over the next few months, we will discuss in detail the PBID and its potential. We ask that you engage and learn more about the PBID and what it means for our city, our surrounding community, property owners, businesses and residents. Solutions start with collaboration, education and communication. We are ready to begin and ask you to join us.

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