As the DCA Dissolves, What’s Next?

With the news about the Downtown Corvallis Association’s (DCA) dissolution, many are wondering what’s next for downtown businesses. The accompanying news that the DCA books would be audited fueled speculation that there may have been something untoward happening at the association. So we sat down to ask Kate Porsche and Simon Date about the rumors and the hopes going forward.

The Audit

In 2017, the City Council passed an ordinance for a five-year contract that created the Economic Improvement District (EID), run by the DCA through property assessments estimated to total about $60,000 annually. This contract comes to an end this June. 

Over the last few months, the DCA Board had been discussing options of how to move forward, and with the choice to not renew the EID contract and lack of funding due to the pandemic, have decided to dissolve. The Chamber of Commerce, with its non-voting seat on the DCA board, was aware of the discussions.

On Feb. 17, DCA announced they would be closing their doors.

At a City Council meeting held earlier this month, Porsche, the City Economic Development Manager, shared a letter that outlined the next steps her department plans to take, which include a close-out audit of the DCA’s financial records.   

“Consistent with terms of the contract, we hereby request that the DCA provide us with all of the DCA financial records for the last five years,” the letter reads, “including contracts, payroll records, details related to revenue and expenditures, evidence of work performed, bank statements, and any previous audits, to be provided to the city no later than end of business March 1, 2022.”

Porsche continued, “Additionally, I can only assume that the Chamber, or any organization interested in assuming components of the DCA, would have a keen interest to understand what liabilities might remain, a final breakdown on the balance of the loan fund coming back to the city, etc.”

Enter the Chamber of Commerce

Date, President and CEO of the Chamber, clarified that the Chamber is not taking over or rescuing the DCA.

According to Date, the Chamber of Commerce Board made and approved a “motion where the Chamber would wait for a satisfactory result from the [DCA] audit, and we would seek legal counsel regarding receiving any monies from the DCA.” If the audit has expected results and DCA funds can be legitimately incorporated into the Chamber budget, then the Chamber plans to step into the space to support downtown businesses, hopefully with their own actively engaged committee.

Date says the DCA has 161 members, and less than 20 are also members of the Chamber. His plans include reaching out to DCA members to join the Chamber at their DCA rate for the first year. He sees these businesses as having unique needs within the city, and hopes to build a downtown business committee similar to the newly created Corvallis Independent Business Committee (CIBC) to meet those needs.

Date sees having this group as important to adding strength to the “one voice” of local businesses’ which can make a bigger impact in getting things done – such as better parking or changing city codes and regulations. While the downtown businesses have unique needs, all the businesses working together can result in a united front that will benefit the city as a whole.  

Downtown Business Voices

Christina Rehklau of Visit Corvallis says, “Change is  inevitable, and the pandemic has been difficult on businesses.”

Rehklau, who also was a non-voting board member of the DCA, supports Date’s mission, saying he “really tries to get input from the community, and wants it to be a place where voices will be heard.” She sees that the pandemic caused changes beyond the DCA, and that all sorts of businesses have had to pivot. 

Jen Waters, Executive Director at the Whiteside Theater, had been a DCA member on and off throughout the years. The Whiteside is a non-profit, has no major donors, and is currently facing funding issues to meet the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and fire safety codes. They too were impacted by the pandemic, pivoting to become a community center. And as restrictions lift, she sees them eventually returning to hosting events. Waters said she had been frustrated in the past with DCA because they did not help her with funding to resolve code issues.  

Regardless of her feelings about DCA, Waters believes downtown needs something to replace it.  The downtown businesses need to have their voices heard, however most are too busy running their businesses to take on the volunteer time needed to represent their needs.

Her advice to whichever entity takes over representing downtown businesses is to listen actively to business owners and ask what the small businesses need. 

“Words are pretty,” Waters said. “Actions make things happen.”

Taking Action

Date acknowledges the Chamber has made some missteps in the past, but says he has learned from them.  He said many people are reaching out to him, asking the Chamber to step into the space left by the dissolution of the DCA. He plans to show new downtown members the Chamber is involved and taking action.  

If, upon positive audit results, the Chamber receives any funding from the former DCA through the city, he plans to hire an administrative staff person. With an extra set of hands, he will be free to connect more directly with downtown members and pay attention to their needs. In return, he hopes the new downtown members actively engage in the Committee and the Chamber to meet their own needs within the city.

Date went on to say that the Chamber has always valued the downtown businesses, but did not want to overstep in DCA territory. Also, there are risks involved for the Chamber to take on these new responsibilities, but Date knows the downtown area needs representation and unity.  “Change happens, and different can be good.”


By Stacey Newman Weldon

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