The Stark Foundation is continuing to help the city of Orange with a goal to attract visitors and new businesses to the city.

At a City of Orange Economic Development Corporation meeting Jan. 22, the directors agreed to spend $90,000 to market Orange and attract businesses that would help attract visitors, including $60,000 to Imaginuity of Dallas. The Stark Foundation is also spending $60,000 to Imaginuity for marketing Orange.

Imaginuity is also the marketing-advertising firm for the Stark Foundation’s Shangri-La Botanical Gardens and Nature Center, the Lutcher Theater for the Performing Arts, and the Stark Museum of Art.

For the business marketing of Orange, Imaginuity will conduct a survey of existing businesses in Orange and potential business sites, including vacant buildings and lots.
City Manger Shawn Oubre said Imaginuity has already conducted market research about the local community for the Stark Foundation and would be ahead of work needed by another firm.

Mayor Brown Claybar, who also sits on the board of directors of the Economic Development Corporation, said the city wants to attract businesses and shops that will help Orange become a “destination location.”

Shangri La Botanical Gardens and Nature Center is set to open on March 11 and city officials expect it to become a major tourist draw for Orange.

In addition, the city is planning to spend $30,000 for travel to conferences geared toward matching business owners and cities. Oubre said the International Conference of Shopping Centers is one of the symposiums the city needs to attend.

The $30,000 will be spent for fees to rent space at the conferences plus the advertising materials needed for the events. Oubre said it could take three to five years before the city could see success from a business recruiting plan.

The City of Orange Economic Development Corporation is separate from the Orange County Economic Corporation, though the two work together. The city’s corporation is supported by a special half-cent per dollar sales tax collected by the city.

Bill Klein, president of the corporation’s board of directors, and a former Orange City Councilman, said he supports the plans to market Orange.

“To be a player, you’ve got to go to the conferences,” he said.

After the Economic Development Corporation board met, the full City Council met.
Council accepted an $180,000 grant from the Stark Foundation to help pay for the removal of debris and dilapidated houses. The foundation has given the city more than $1 million for clean-up after Hurricane Rita and Hurricane Humberto.

Claybar said he has talked to mayors from Port Arthur and Beaumont and they have problems with storm-damaged buildings that were abandoned by their owners and left to fall down. He said those cities do not have a generous entity like the Stark Foundation to help the communities.

City Councilwoman Cynthia Jackson said people in Orange need to keep the city clean and not discard trash and garbage along streets and in ditches. She has seen old furniture in ditches. When the city sends workers to clean up the mess, taxpayers have to pay for the work, she said.

In other business, City Council voted to spend up to $24,500 with DFL Group of Austin to draw a major park plan for the city and help file for park development grants from the Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife.