Ashland could work to boost the number of Internet-based businesses in town by 50 percent over the next two years, based on draft Ashland City Council goals.
The city of Ashland is taking public input on the goals, which could be formally adopted during a council meeting that starts at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, April 2, in the Ashland Civic Center Council Chambers, 1175 E. Main St.
Councilor Greg Lemhouse has championed the goal to increase the number of Internet-based businesses.
"It's an aggressive goal that says the city is committed to growing this industry," he said.
Lemhouse said many such businesses can be operated out of people's homes.
People who want to run Internet-based businesses often are well educated and are committed to their communities, he said.
Home Internet businesses can also be family-friendly, allowing parents to work from home and stay connected to their children, Lemhouse said.
Ashland already has its city-owned Ashland Fiber Network high speed Internet service, which can be used to attract more businesses, he said.
Ashland could work with representatives in the Oregon Legislature, especially Sen. Alan Bates and Rep. Peter Buckley, to blanket Ashland or even all of Jackson County with an electronic commerce overlay zone, Lemhouse said.
Businesses in e-commerce zones may qualify for state income tax credits, according to the Oregon Secretary of State's Office.
It's not clear how many Internet-based businesses exist in Ashland.
Defining an Internet-based business can be tricky.
Some Ashland businesses rely completely on the Internet, while others use it to augment their businesses, said Katharine Flanagan, director of sales, marketing and Ashland's Visitor Bureau for the Ashland Chamber of Commerce.
The majority of Ashland businesses now use the Internet as a main tool for business operations, she said.
Some are like Blackstone Audio, an audio book company that has corporate-style office space but relies on the Internet to grow and enhance its business, Flanagan said.
Online e-commerce helps drive Ashland businesses like Yala, which sells everything from clothing to travel bedding, and Natura Health Products, a seller of vitamins and other health products, she said.
Some businesses might not be described as Internet-based, but they are becoming more and more Internet-dependent, Flanagan said.
Those include businesses in the lodging and real estate industries, she said.
The Ashland Chamber of Commerce recognizes the importance of the Internet to its business members and has undertaken a number of initiatives — including providing links from the chamber website to individual business websites and supporting workshops on social media and a do-it-yourself website creation tool, Flanagan said.
Other goals that could be adopted by the council include:
For a complete list of draft council goals for 2013, visit http://ashland.or.us/Page.asp?NavID=15448.
Comments on the draft goals can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or email@example.com.