To understand where the newly formed organization Keep Paris Working is coming from, readers may want to review how the Paris Economic Development Corp. got on the local elections ballot for November.
The PEDC has been funded by a quarter cent sales tax since 1993 when voters at that time decided economic development for the community was something they wanted. So what exactly can an Economic Development Corp Type A do with the sales tax funds they receive? The Type A sales tax is primarily intended for manufacturing and industrial development. EDCs may use Type A revenue to fund land, buildings, equipment, facilities expenditures, targeted infrastructure and improvements for projects including:
- Manufacturing and industrial facilities, recycling facilities, distribution centers, and small warehouse facilities
- Research and development facilities, regional or national corporate headquarters facilities, primary job training facilities operated by higher education institutions, job training classes, telephone call centers and career centers not located within a junior college taxing district
- Certain infrastructure improvements that promote or develop new or expanded business enterprises
- Aviation facilities
- Commuter rail, light rail or commuter bus operations
- Port-related facilities, railports, rail switching facilities, marine ports, inland ports
- Maintenance and operating costs associated with projects.
At the June 26 regular session, the Paris City Council voted 4-2 for Proposition A to be placed on the November 7 ballot asking voters if they want the $1.2 million each year to stay with the PEDC or be refunded for road repairs and streets. The city then proposed to take $600,000 from the city’s general fund and put it towards economic development to be run by the city.
“The good thing about the quarter cent tax that now funds the PEDC is; you can always count on it. The same amount comes in each year. If economic development falls under the city’s control, the funds could become unstable from each city council and year to year.”
Fast forward to August, the pact Keep Paris Working is formed by a number of local business owners who are opposed to the redirection of PEDC funds. “Keep Paris Working’s purpose is to educate Paris voters about our opposition to the November 7 city’s election Proposition A. We believe this is a short sided idea and we urge voters to vote NO, stated Mike Kennedy, Treasurer for the initiative. “If we have no new jobs in Paris, the quality of roads will not matter. We welcome the public vote to re-affirm our community’s belief in economic development and attracting investments and good jobs,” added Kennedy.
During its time of operation, PEDC has been directly involved in the recruitment of industries such as Turner Industries which employs over 600 people, BodyGuard, Skinner Baking and Potter Industries according to Michael Paris. “I shudder to think how Paris might lose manufacturing jobs without the development and attraction of primary jobs,” Paris said.
I spoke to Paris Mayor Steven Clifford recently and asked; why take this to the voters? “We vote on our road tax every 4 years and we haven’t taken a vote on the PEDC in 24 years. We listened to some our citizens and they stated they wanted a chance to decide if this is something they would like to continue to fund. What I want everyone to understand is, economic development will continue in Paris, TX. Council will invest $600,000 in a city run economic development corporation. While a city run corp. won’t have as much money to give away in tax abatements, what we can do that a Type A EDC can’t, is work with attracting more retail, restaurants and even assist in city services if that would help a potential new business. We have spent $30 million in 24 years on the PEDC and a few of us on the city council feel the citizens of Paris deserve the right to vote and have a choice.”
Jay Hodge of James Hodge Motors is also speaking out against the city council and serves as the Assistant Treasurer for Keep Paris Working. “We respectfully disagree with the city council to redirect this modest tax funding successful longstanding economic development programs and redirect the tax to road repairs. We live and work in Paris; we are raising our families here and believe in Paris, and don’t want to see Paris become less competitive in attracting new jobs and investment. Keep Paris Working is very much opposed to the cutting of critical economic development activities and swapping proven job creation funding for street maintenance.”
It’s hard to say how this very passionate subject will play out as both sides have compelling points. Only the polls will tell on November 7. eParisExtra will continue to cover this story through the election. For more information on Keep Paris Working you can find them on Facebook or you can email firstname.lastname@example.org. For additional information on the PEDC you can visit their website at www.parisedc.com or you may want to take their current survey www.buildinparis.com. To contact the mayor or other city council members, click here.
In a recent poll our readers indicated interest in having more businesses under the following categories:
- 28%: Industry
- 28%: Restaurants
- 18%: Shopping & Retail
- 21%: Entertainment
- 5%: Other
The poll represented 630 votes from the eParisExtra readers.
So now the question is, do you think the PEDC should remain funded by the quarter-cent tax? Or do you think it should fall under the operation of the city and those funds go to roads and street repairs?