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Parish economic development organization faces deficits, seeks support

VIDALIA — The Concordia Parish Economic and Industrial Development District may face closure in three years without more revenue.

“We are pretty much in a shoestring budget,” Concordia Economic and Industrial Development District Executive Director Heather Malone said. “We would have to close before our reserves reach zero, and we are still operating in a deficit. Our hard work is going to increase local government’s revenue, hopefully they realize that and increase their contribution.”

The organization is projected to generate $122,000 in revenue during the 2013-2014 fiscal year, which is $32,204 less than last year’s total of $154,204.

Because the Concordia Parish Economic and Industrial Development District is projected to operate in a $17,920 deficit this year, the organization will draw from its reserves, leaving it with an ending balance of $57,566. If the deficit continues as is, reserve funds will be depleted in approximately three years.

The organization’s largest revenue source comes from the parish’s hotel occupancy tax. Each year, the organization budgets to receive $100,000 from the tax, but Malone said she often receives less than the budgeted amount.

“Historically, the only revenue source we have received is the motel tax,” she said. “But in 2008, the economic downturn hurt the amount of tax being collected. We got close last year to the $100,000 in our budget, but usually we don’t meet our goal.”

Prior to 2008, Malone said Concordia Parish Economic Development received $150,000 annually.

Tax collection difficulties have led Malone to ask local municipalities, the Concordia Parish Police Jury and businesses that benefit from the organization’s work for additional funding.

Vidalia and the police jury pledged approximately $5,000. Ridgecrest donated $823. Ferriday voted down a measure that would have contributed $4,200 and Malone said the town of Clayton hasn’t responded to her request for $823.

Malone said she determined the amounts based on 2010 Census data.

But Malone is hoping to generate significantly more money from local businesses.

Her structure for business donations seeks:

$500 for companies with less than 10 employees.

$1,000 for companies with 10 to 55 employees.

$3,000 for companies with 56 to 100 employees.

$5,000 for companies with more than 100 employees.

Malone said the structure would allow Concordia Parish Economic and Industrial Development to increase its marketing efforts and potentially bring more industry into the area. Marketing and advertising is also the first entity in the organizations budget to get cut when money gets tight.

No money is budgeted for advertising and marketing for the 2013-2014 fiscal year.

Financial difficulties have also caused Malone to reduce the only other Concordia Economic Development employee to part-time.

This isn’t the first time excess expenditures have been a problem. Malone said the organization has steadily been drawing from its reserves since she took the job.

The budget was released Wednesday, one day after Vidalia announced a $100 million investment in the by Hinterland LLC, a biomass energy company.

“The efforts by Mayor Copeland and the Vidalia Town council, the Concordia Parish Economic Development Office and State of Louisiana have made the Vidalia Industrial Park an attractive location to bring new investment into the area,” Hinterland LLC managing member Sue Wells said in a news release.