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Frequently Asked Questions

For the upcoming new districts selection, the Souly Austin program will be offering services to two (2) districts through a competitive application process. The selection will be based on equitability, support, and organization.

Activities associated with the Souly Austin program rely heavily on strong relationships with a number of departments including Transportation, Public Works, Planning and Zonning, etc. With their support, a wide-variety of district wide improvements can be achieved.

Souly Austin is designed to empower motivated, Austin-area businesses of all sizes and types throughout the city’s commercial areas. The program is inclusive of all business types.

In addition to being all-inclusive, Souly Austin fosters independent collaboration between businesses and provides an array of support services towards the formation of self-sustaining merchants associations.

Once established, the Souly Austin program continues to provide support to the Merchants Association district initiatives and priorities, offering technical trainings to ensure continued organization development, yearly performance assessments, as well as assistance with any district-wide issues, as needed.

A merchants association is a group of business owners that exists to anchor and stabilize neighboring businesses around beautification efforts, marketing and promotions, business retention, and economic development activities within a commercial district.

In Texas, there are two different nonprofit entity options available to merchants associations: (1) a nonprofit association and (2) a nonprofit corporation. Traditional merchants associations qualify for both of these organizational options, since they are typically engaged in work that is of a nonprofit nature, by providing civic services to benefit a community and utilizing revenues in furtherance of the merchants association’s mission.

A business improvement district (BID) or public improvement district (PID) is a defined area within which businesses pay an additional tax in order to fund projects within the district’s boundaries. The majority of taxpayers within a proposed BID/PID must petition the local government to form a BID/PID.

Souly Austin has created a “Merchant’s Script” to be utilized by individuals interested in providing more information to their business community about Merchants Associations. For the script, please visit this link.

During formation, the business district will be conducting a variety of discussions and activities to gather important information to develop actions and goals related to the enhancement of their business district. This information is then organized and cataloged in a unique District Strategy document developed for your district. This document will serve as a living guide to achieving district priorities and work as a guide of the strategic direction the business district would like to work towards.

Souly Austin is a place-based economic development program focused on creating and retaining strong, vibrant, culturally right and diverse neighborhood business districts throughout Austin. Offering tools and resources to businesses to form their own neighborhood business district merchants association, the Souly Austin approach serves as a model to build capacity, consensus and a vision for these districts that contribute to the soul and economic vibrancy of Austin.

Souly Austin seeks to strengthen the connections between businesses and the places they share through development of merchants associations. As Austin continues to grow and evolve, business owners can play an active role in influencing positive change and preserving the unique culture and environment of their respective districts as members and leaders of merchants associations.

Souly Austin currently supports six (6) Merchants Associations in the City of Austin, which you can visit here. Similar business district development models are found in cities such as: Seattle, WA (Only in Seattle); Portland, OR (Venture Portland); or Minneapolis, MN (Meet Minneapolis).

Imagine Austin centers and corridors are eligible for participation should businesses express interest.