Met Council OKs $1.2M to Boost Central Corridor Biz.

The council will reportedly spend the money on a marketing campaign intended to attract customers to struggling businesses along the Central Corridor light-rail line.

The Metropolitan Council will spend $1.2 million on a marketing campaign that will attempt to lure customers to struggling businesses along the Central Corridor light-rail line, according to a Star Tribune report.

The campaign will focus on driving customer traffic to these businesses by “raising awareness of the diversity of . . . businesses and highlighting that they are accessible, safe, and worth visiting,” reported the Star Tribune. It will include “a multi-level approach that markets the entire corridor to the metro region.”

The Central Corridor light-rail line is a $957 million project that will span 11 miles and connect the downtowns of Minneapolis and St. Paul along University and Washington avenues when it's completed in 2014.

Some merchants with businesses adjacent to the light-rail line have complained that construction of the corridor has deprived potential customers of easy access to their stores and parking.

The marketing campaign, intended to boost support for these businesses, will reportedly begin in March and continue for two years. The money will come from a Central Corridor light-rail contingency fund provided by federal, state, and Twin Cities county governments.

However, the campaign has been criticized by some who see it as an odd expenditure at a time when the Met Council has reported budget shortfalls and raised property taxes, according to the Star Tribune.

“They seem to not to have any trouble finding the money,” Representative Michael Beard, chairman of the House Transportation Policy and Finance Committee, told the Minneapolis newspaper.

Beard pointed out that the spending on marketing for the Central Corridor businesses comes months after the Met Council struggled to find money to operate a future rapid bus service on Cedar Avenue following a state cut in funding. Two weeks ago the council reportedly raised property taxes by 2 percent to bolster reserves and provide more money for general expenses.

Met Council spokeswoman Meredith Salsbery told the Star Tribune that the $1.2 million is contingency money that must be spent only on the Central Corridor project.

Meanwhile, the Central Corridor Funders Collaborative-a group that aims to assist residents and businesses near the Central Corridor light-rail line-has awarded millions of dollars in grants to support economic development around the light-rail line; the group entered 2012 with about $5 million available to invest.

To learn more about how businesses are reacting to the Met Council's proposed marketing campaign, read the full Star Tribune story here.