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SPECIAL REPORT: Business in El Centro staying afloat

How the lack business has affected the flow of customers - 13 On Your Side's Vince Ybarra reports

El Centro, Calif. (KYMA, KECY) - Downtown El Centro was once the heart of the city, with a strong economy. But now it's almost a ghost town.

A total of nine businesses closed their business licenses from January 2020 to mid September 2022. The manger of one local vape shop said even though his store is doing well. The lack of new businesses opening, makes things rough.

“Main street still has that rep of what it use to be…but that’s the rep that it has…what it use to be,” said Jimenez.

He says on the weekends, downtown El Centro feels abandoned. There are several boarded up buildings in the area, that’s due to owners not wanting to open shop.

Imperial County resident, Melissa Hayes said she doesn’t shop in the area.

“I don’t know if there is anything there, honestly,” said Hayes.

She said she likes to shop at other places…like the Imperial Valley Mall.

Another concern for Jimenez is the homeless community that gathers on main street.

“We do get transient from the street," said Jimenez.

According to El Centro Mayor Tomas Oliva…the city is working on trying to allocate money to help businesses and the homeless community. But it’s taking time.

And it can’t come soon enough, Jimenez said the homeless community can be overwhelming.

“I had a motorcycle outside, I guess that was that guys target and he just knocked it down and caused damage,” said Jimenez.

Simply at home store manager William Coldwell says there’s still hope.

“The city of El Centro has been ultra-supportive,” said Coldwell. “If we’ve had concerns…they’ve address them immediately."

According to Mayor Oliva, the city is trying to allocate new money to the downtown area. He says there needs to be better communication so the city knows what kind of support is needed.

“The more businesses owners are able to tell me specifically what could help them and what the city could do then I could gather all those examples and create a policy, you know, A net that could capture all of them and sustain them,” said Oliva.

In the last ten years…the downtown area gains over $3.4 million in sales tax revenue. Still…it’s not enough.

The Imperial Valley Regional Chamber of Commerce Chief Operations Officer adds public support is vital.

“We need people to go out and shop local, eat at our delicious restaurants, and enjoy the recreations available,” said Anne Irigoyan.

That’s something Mayor Oliva agrees with. He encourages folks to come on down and check out the businesses that are already here.

Article Topic Follows: Imperial County

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Vince Ybarra

Vince Ybarra joined KYMA in June 2021 and is a CBS 13 anchor.

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