Tax board gets update on project


The Economic Development Corp. of Jefferson County got an update Tuesday on a second project for which the corporation has approved funding.

Corporation Chairman George Makris said the project has not been officially named and is known as “Project 1110.”

“We’ve done everything we can do and the company has done everything they can do,” Makris said. “Right now they’re waiting on a project number to be released by the government and they expect to get that soon.”

The corporation administers the county economic development sales tax which was approved by voters in February 2011. That tax money may be spent on projects to stimulate economic development and to provide incentives to companies looking to locate in the county.

In January, the corporation board offered a bio-tech company up to $73,000 to locate in a vacant laboratory facility at the Pine Bluff Arsenal.

Makris said that federal statutes prohibit political sub-divisions, such as the corporation, from paying money directly to private companies, but does permit them to pay the arsenal to renovate the facility.

“We’re not giving the money directly to the company,” Makris said.

Based on tax collections so far, Markis said it appears that collections will be about $3.5 million annually, the rate predicted when the tax was approved.

At the suggestion of the board, Markis asked Treasurer Scott McGeorge, (who was out of town and participated by conference call), to contact bankers about investing some of the tax proceeds in an account that can generate additional revenue over the rate the corporation is currently receiving.

“We’ve got over $1 million right now and pretty soon we’re going to have $2 million,” Makris said. “I would like to see us take everything over $1 million and put it into something where we can earn a little more interest.”

On the subject of incentives, the corporation board approved a program that sets out guidelines for how much a company can be offered to locate or expand in Pine Bluff, based on average wages the company will pay.

“This is something Lou Ann (Nisbett) has been asking,” Makris said. “How much can we offer?”

Nisbett is president and chief executive officer of the Economic Development Alliance of Jefferson County, which is employed by the corporation to manage their job creation efforts.

The guidelines indicate that companies paying up to the average wage being paid in Jefferson County can receive up to $1,000 per job created, like the 329 jobs that are expected to be created within the next three to five years by Horizon Foods, which has acquired the former Tyson Foods plant on West 2nd Avenue, and which last week received $329,000 in incentives from the corporation.

Companies whose salaries are average to 120 percent above average can receive incentives of up to $2,000 per job, with that figure increasing as wage rates increase above the county average.

Incentives for companies whose wage rates are 200 percent above the county average are negotiable.