After growing tired of losing shoppers to neighboring cities, leaders of this Oklahoma city drew the line.
Desperate for sales tax dollars, they painted an 18-inch-wide blue line around the city corresponding to its jagged boundary with neighboring Oklahoma City and Warr Acres.
The goal is to make sure Bethany's 21,000 residents don't mistakenly drive outside the city to dine, shop or get their cars fixed.
"When you shop past the blue line, you're supporting the police and fire departments in Oklahoma City and Warr Acres -- not Bethany," said City Manager Dan Galloway, one of the brains behind the blue line. "Before we convince our people they need to shop here, we better make certain they know where Bethany is."
Bethany can use the help. The city hasn't filled 14 staff positions, including those for two police officers and two firefighters, because it doesn't have the money, Galloway said. Bethany brings in $185 per capita each year in sales taxes, compared with Oklahoma City's $455 and Warr Acres's $300.
City council members have also been handing out to about 300 businesses in town blue-trimmed window decals that say "Bethany Means Business."
The line and decals -- color-coordinated with Bethany's blue street signs -- have made the city's northeastern neighbor a bit nervous. Warr Acres has put up signs near the entrance to Bethany that say, "Warning: Higher Taxes Ahead." Bethany's city sales tax is 4 percent, compared with Warr Acres's 2.5 percent.
The blue line is only part of Bethany's plan to break down its anti-business image, which has roots in the early 1900s. The town's original 40 acres were donated to a group associated with the Church of the Nazarene, and the residents prohibited the sale of alcohol and tobacco.
These days, the city is encouraging business development, even buying 14 acres of prime real estate with the intention of enticing investors to open a hotel and some restaurants. The city has also taken $7,500 out of an economic development fund to hire an Oklahoma City marketing firm, whose task is to improve Bethany's business image.
The firm intends to emphasize Bethany's historic downtown just off Route 66 and its many antique stores. "After 60 or 70 years of saying business is not welcome, it's going to take some time to reverse that," said Jeb Reid of the marketing company Big Ideas.
Bethany business owners aren't reporting any huge jumps in revenue, but they are appreciative of the city's support. "I think it's wonderful they're doing something," said Mike Kurtz, manager of Auto Pro.
Businesses outside the blue line are hoping people don't notice the boundary.
"We're a pretty busy store," said Dale Bennett, an Oklahoma City clerk just across the line at Dolly Madison Bakery, where many customers are from Bethany. "I've never seen where it affects us."
The line will become a lot harder to ignore in the next few weeks: It is being repainted a brighter blue -- and eight feet wide.