• ‘Long overdue’ business community pushes back on city policies that affect entrepreneurship
By Naomi Klouda
A new group of more than 60 businesses called Homer Voice for Business wants a more collaborative relationship with local city government.
At the Homer City Council meeting, Homer Voice advocates introduced their aims and mission through Tom Stroozas, the publisher of American Cuisine Magazine of Anchorage and Kenai Peninsula, published from Homer.
“We came together a few months ago as Homer Voice for Business. Our Mission statement is quite simple and it excites me to let you know what we are about,” Stroozas said. It is to “align the business community with political bodies for the betterment of all in our community. It’s not you and us. It’s us together.”
Stroozas moved to Homer in 2004 from South Carolina where he had worked 26 years and retired as manager of commercial marketing for the natural gas industry. Stroozas was appointed to replace Homer Chamber of Commerce Board member Jim Lavrakas when he was named executive director of the chamber. He is the publisher of America Cuisine Anchorage, a magazine placed in hotel rooms for accessing restaurants and is sold as a Smart Phone app. American Express is the publishing partner to the national dining guide franchise.
Homer Voice for Business is a well-rounded group of experienced professionals that is available to the city and council in advisory capacities, he told the council.
“We are a valuable ‘low cost/no cost’ resource, so use us. We earnestly solicit government bodies to enlist our help early in processes to avoid embarrassment later. We encourage more open dialog in advance so we can all be on the same page,” he said. “This will foster more respectful discussion and input into various political processes before it’s too late at the council testimony phase, where discussion can be difficult and sometimes uncomfortable.”
Homer Voices is “here to stay and will be vigilant and active,” Stroozas said.
The original catalyst for banding as a group came from the new water-sewer rates adopted by the Homer City Council that will charge business or large water users higher rates.
“I got involved at the onset back in early August,” Stroozas said later. “The catalyst for getting the group together was a contentions issue, the proposed water and sewer rate increases. And it was going to have a serious effect on businesses and apartment dwellers. It was only a catalyst. This organization is long overdue in getting local business operators together to work proactively toward well-rounded decisions for the community and citizens,” he said.
Councilman Beau Burguess welcomed the group. “It is time we have a group of business people who want to get involved in our government and policies that affect our community,” he said.
Homer Mayor Beth Wythe invited members to also join on advisory commissions to help impact changes meaningful to businesses.
Stroozas reminded the council what Mayor Wythe has said many times: “Homer is open for business” and said they are here to help elevate that message.
The “diverse” group is unnamed of its members, but described as including “restaurant owners , lodging, real estate pros, other professional services, insurance businesses, medical, broadcasting, air charters, other contractors, tour operators, auto repairs and publications. They represent every type of business in town,” Stroozas said.
City Manager Walt Wrede said in the past, when the city or council was considering an action and wanted business input, it was difficult to figure out who to reach out to.
“How are you organized? I ask because at times we have wanted to go to the business community and see how you feel about (an issue)? How do we get to the broader group?” he asked.
The contact person would be Mike Dye, one of the Homer Voices key organizers, Stroozas said. Then the larger group of business members would be contacted and able to weigh in.
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