NOXVILLE (WATE) - Knoxville city leaders announced new initiatives Thursday to support and promote businesses in South Knoxville while the Henley Bridge is closed.
Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett has been leading an effort to bring shoppers to the area and is calling for help from the state.
Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero and Vice Mayor Nick Pavlis announced Thursday a $20,000 grant to help marketing and promotion efforts. The money will be used to help South Knoxville businesses that have been affected by the extended closure of the Henley Bridge.
"One of things they need is help with marketing, a lot of these small business themselves can't be effective with their marketing," said Mayor Rogero.
The city is also putting up eight temporary signs along major highways north of the river, directing traffic to the Chapman Highway Business District.
Mayor Rogero invited Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett to match the city's grant. He has pledged that Knox County will also contribute $20,000 to the marketing and promotions effort.
The city and county funds will be directed through the nonprofit Legacy Parks Foundation. The foundation will serve as the fiscal agent and work with South Knoxville businesses to develop a marketing plan and identify promotional possibilities during the coming year.
Merchants have expressed to city officials the need for assistance with marketing and better road signs to help detoured traffic reach Chapman Highway.
"Any of things will help us, the attention is huge, to get people to say, just come on, getting to this side of town is not really as hard as it may seem," said Rebecca Hussain. co-owner of Wee-Care.
Tennessee Department of Transportation officials agreed to a city request to post the eight temporary signs.
The signs will go up over the next few days along major arteries, including James White Parkway, Henley Street, Gay Street and Cumberland Avenue.
In addition, city officials are meeting Friday with TDOT officials to discuss traffic flow at the Chapman Highway interchange with Moody Avenue.
"They understand how much we're struggling and that they're striving to do things to benefit us, it's extremely positive," said Hussain.
The delayed opening of the bridge has led some business owners to worry about lost sales.
Earlier this week Knoxville City Council members asked state legislators for sales tax breaks for business owners.
"I don't think we're asking for too much. As I said before, we're not looking for a bailout," said Ron Emery, owner of Emery's 5&10.
Tax relief may be a hard sell for lawmakers in Nashville.
"I think it's a tougher sell, but I know it's something now our local legislators are working on, but I can't wait for that," Rogero said.
State Sen. Becky Duncan-Massey said there are a couple of bills drafted to help South Knoxville businesses.
Massey said she has been trying to get input from a variety of folks to see what we can actually pass.
Massey feels help in the form of a grant or economic partnership may be the best method of funding, instead of a bill involving tax relief.
"My inclination is I don't see it any kind of sales tax relief passing," Massey said.
Massey said she has spoken with the Tennessee Department of Revenue Commissioner, and next week she plans to meet with Gov. Bill Haslam about the issue.
City officials will meet Friday with TDOT to discuss traffic flow at the Chapman Highway interchange with Moody Avenue.
The city grant will be presented to City Council for approval at its next regular meeting, on March 19.