Local business owners question data-driven results and Glendale First
by Glendale Chamber of Commerce on December 19th, 2016

​By DARRELL JACKSON, The Glendale Star

While Glendale continues to rebound from years of distress and economic decline, questions continue when it comes to the city’s fiscal support of local businesses.

The city has begun touting it is “becoming more data-driven in all aspects of city government,” as well as building a “Glendale First” approach, but the numbers conflict those claims.

Glendale Chamber of Commerce President Robert Heidt, who has been fighting for more acceptance for local businesses since taking over as Chamber president nearly three years ago, said the lack of support for local businesses has shocked him.

“I am amazed they would even make such claims (about being data-driven),” Heidt said. “It is very disheartening to see how Glendale is clearly at the bottom of the priority list.”

Questions about the focus on local businesses

While staff has said local businesses are, “’absolutely’ given priority,” and the city is “Glendale First,” numerous business owners have told a different story.

“I have been denied over 30 times for these events, with absolutely no explanation as to why,” said White Eyes Fry Bread co-owner John Roach. “All we have ever gotten was a form letter saying we were denied.”

Roach, who has been approved for the Glitter Spectacular and Block Party this year, has been denied for the other Glitter weekends.

They have been accepted for two other weekends (2015 Glendale Spectacular and Chocolate Affaire), but denied for all other events over the past three years.

“During that time, other fry bread operators have been at all the events,” Roach said.

Several other business owners, who asked not to be identified for fear of reprisal, added they have stopped applying because vendors have said, “unless you have an out-of-state address, chances are you will not be accepted.”

Heidt continues to challenge the city to do anything possible to make sure local businesses are selected first at city sponsored events.

“I believe it is a lack of direction from leadership, lack of city events staff understanding the need to support local businesses, lack of oversight in general,” Heidt said. “Essentially, an events department that has been left to do as they please and not have regard of the impact they could have positively on our local merchants.”

Event numbers show overwhelming approval to businesses outside City of Glendale

In official city documents, obtained by The Glendale Star through a public records request, approval and denials of all applications for the four event weekends over the past three years (2014 to 2016) contradict the city’s focus on local businesses.

Over the past three years, the city has received 1,204 applications to be a vendor at one of the four major events during the holiday season. Of those, the city has approved 739 with only 15.29 percent (113) coming from Glendale businesses and 84.71 percent (626) coming from other businesses.

“We are producing large outdoor festivals with crowds ranging from 35,000 to 80,000 attendees,” said Kim Larson, Glendale public facilities, recreation and special events spokesperson. “There are certain products that have a much higher demand at these types of events. Kettle corn and fry bread are two of the most popular.”

Roach wonders why they have been denied so many times.

“Our issue is with the entire process and not being able to get into these events,” said Roach. “We have been applying for all the city events and have been approved maybe 10 times and denied for more than 30.”

Roach also questioned the city in their denial process.

“I only get a form letter saying we were not selected,” Roach said. “The only time I have even talked to anyone is when I contacted to try and find out what was going on and why. “Other than that, all we have ever gotten was a form letter, which is the same letter every year.”

Heidt, who attended the opening weekend of the 2016 Glendale Glitters Spectacular Nov. 25, said he was disheartened with what he saw along the row of food vendors.

“I went and talked to the food vendors and saw that there were two fry bread vendors within two tents of each other,” Heidt said. “The other fry bread vendor (Mae Inc. Fry Bread) was from Mesa. They put them within two tents of each other and I was just disheartened at what they were doing to a local business owner.”

Lydia Seise, owner of Johnnies Java, who has been denied four times in the last two years and accepted for one – the 2106 Chocolate Affair, also questioned the denial process.

Seise said every denial letter she has received from the city states, “we were unable to accept all applications due to space limitations within Murphy Park and the downtown Glendale area. After reviewing your application, unfortunately we were not able to accommodate your request to participate this year, for this event.”

Roach said he has talked to numerous other local vendors about the process and that several others are wondering what they could do to get approved for the events.

“The issue is with the entire process and not being able to get into these events with no explanation at all,” Roach said. “Other local business owners have told me that they won’t even apply because they are so disheartened with the entire process.”

Larson said there are times the city will contact local vendors, “especially when they are brand new to the industry, that we will call them to chat and make sure they have a clear vision of what to expect.”

Both Roach and Seise said they have never received a phone call from anyone at the city concerning their applications, refuting Larson’s claims that the city contacts vendors directly.
When it comes to local food merchants, the city has received 213 total applications for the current season with 92 (43.19 percent) being approved over that time.

Of the 92 approved food vendors, 13 (14.13 percent) have been from Glendale while 79 (85.86 percent) have been from non-Glendale food vendors.

The 2017 Chocolate Affaire has no local businesses approved, with 11 local businesses denied, while 19 businesses were approved to participate.

“Unfortunately, I am not shocked, but very frustrated that city staff doesn’t seem to value our local businesses – we’ve all known this, and now, having the numbers to bring to life the reality. All businesses and residents should be outraged by this. If a city doesn’t support their local community, who will?” Heidt said. “These businesses provide jobs, thus creating commerce and prosperity, so, even if someone in Glendale does participate in the events, or own a business, they should still be quite upset when the city they rely on for service such as fire, police, etc., etc., doesn’t provide priority to local merchants, thus, driving more revenue and sales tax, giving the city added revenue to fund many needs within police and fire, which are huge priorities, and of course, the other many great things we’ve come to enjoy and require as a community.”

Calls for a response to Special Events Division Manager Martin Dickey and Director of Public Facilities, Recreation and Special Events Erik Strunk were not returned as of press time.


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