Business

Officials: Gift card program led to half a million in local spending

IOWA CITY — A program designed to incentivize shopping during the pandemic has led to more than half a million dollars in local spending.

According to a news release, the Holding Our Own gift card incentive program generated $517,000 in local spending and $63,000 in local incentives since the program was launched in late June. Through the program, 33 minority and immigrant-owned businesses have received a total of $51,950 in grants.

Under the program — created by a partnership of Think Iowa City, the Iowa City Downtown District, the Iowa City Area Business Partnership and the Iowa City Area Development Group — for every $150 spent at local businesses impacted by COVID-19, the shopper receives a $20 gift card for one of those 166 local businesses and $5 goes to the Black, Indigenous and People of Color and Immigrant Business Grant Fund.

“The program has allowed me to show much appreciation to the customers who provided their loyalty and support during the downturn,” said Naa Tackie, owner/manager of NaNa Boutique in Iowa City, in a statement. “The program provided much needed funds for my small-business to encourage me to stay open during these times. It has been very valuable.”

The program was funded with help from West Bank, MidWestOne Bank, GreenState Credit Union, Hills Bank, Great Western Bank, Two Rivers Bank, CBI Bank and Trust and US Bank. Funds dedicated to the program are expected to be used up soon and customers who have not yet submitted their receipts are encouraged to do so soon.

Local officials have pointed to initiatives such as the gift card incentive program as a means to spur spending during the pandemic. Many area businesses that have already been hit hard by the pandemic can no longer rely on a normal fall — and the economic boost that comes with the University of Iowa football season. Hotels, bars and restaurants, retailers and transportation companies are all expected to be impacted, officials said.

“It’s bittersweet to see the program come to an end,” said Think Iowa City Senior Vice President Nick Kaeding in a statement. “It has provided the spark our local businesses needed and opened up new markets for those wanting to try something new.”

Comments: (319) 339-3155; lee.hermiston@thegazette.com

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