Tax Board hears Alliance plans for 2012

A new website for the Economic Development Alliance of Jefferson County and face-to-face meetings with industrial prospects are among the things Lou Ann Nisbett, president and CEO of The Alliance, is planning for this year.

“A good web site is the key to economic development,” Nisbett told the Economic Development Corp. of Jefferson County Tuesday afternoon.

“For site selectors (representatives of companies looking to locate in a particular area) that’s their first view of a community and if they don’t see what they’re looking for in the first few minutes, they’re gone,” she said.

The Alliance was hired by the Economic Development Corp., to manage the affairs of the corporation, which administers the three-eighths cent county wide sales tax for economic development.

Regarding the face to face meetings, Nisbett said she wants to also visit the corporate headquarters of companies currently located in Pine Bluff and Jefferson County such as Tyson Foods, Wheeling Machine Products, SunGro Horticulture, and Evergreen Packaging to let them know how much they’re appreciated.

As far as visiting prospective businesses, Nisbett said site selectors have emphasized that after a good web site, face to face visits can make a difference in their decision about locating in a particular place.

While attracting new businesses and industries is a goal of The Alliance, Nisbett said retention and expansion of current businesses is also a high priority and the program has been recognized by the Arkansas Economic Development Corp. as one of the strongest in the state.

“It’s easier to keep an existing business than it is to attract a new one,” she said, noting that Mid-America Packaging expanded twice last year, Stant added thermostat production at its Pine Bluff plant, and U.S. Sugar opened up a packaging plant last year.

In a report prepared for the Jefferson County Quorum Court, which will be presented by the corporation in February, Makris said the original estimate that the tax will bring in about $3.5 million appears to be on track.

Much of the meeting was devoted to a presentation by Little Rock attorney Jane Dickey of the Rose Law Firm, one of the authors of economic development authority legislation.

“No amount of legislation can ignore the restrictions placed on it by the Arkansas constitution,” Dickey said, explaining that the constitution says “no county, city, town or other municipal corporation shall appropriate money for, or loan its credit to, any corporation, association, institution or individual.”

Dickey also noted that an Attorney General’s Opinion in 2010 said “you can’t give money away, meaning that it’s not wise to make a cash payment.”

Dickey also recommended that the members of the corporation “get involved early.”

“You’re here to provide incentives (for job creation and expansion), not to offer somebody a price after they’ve already made a decision,” Dickey said.