Concordia economic effort seeks private sector support

Published 12:06 am Saturday, March 22, 2014

Vidalia — Concordia Parish Economic Development is looking for private sector partners to invest in what could be the difference between having a robust business recruiting office and barely keeping its doors open.

The district is funded by a hotel and motel tax that prior to 2008 generated approximately $150,000 annually. Since the economic downturn that year, however, funding has dwindled.

Last year, the total tax revenue received was approximately $90,000, 10 percent shy of the $100,000 projected for the budget.

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With that deficit, CPED has had to draw from its reserves, which are now approximately $40,000, down approximately $15,000 from last year.

“Year after year, what we keep hoping for is a new hotel,” CPED Director Heather Malone said. “But you really hate to put all your eggs in one basket in the hope of that coming to fruition.

“Based on what we receive, we could continue to operate, but it would be strictly operating by keeping our doors open, which I don’t believe are the intentions of the operation.”

Including Malone’s salary and that of a part-time employee, the CPED’s costs run at approximately $29,000 a quarter, she said.

A new hotel is tentatively scheduled to break ground in Vidalia this summer, which Malone said should ultimately take the squeeze off the organization, but would still take some time for its construction and business base to grow.

In the meantime, the CPED is seeking public and private support for its continued operation.

Malone said she believes the operation will ultimately need to be supported by a structure similar to that utilized by Natchez Inc., which receives tax support from the Natchez and Adams County governments and funds from Natchez Now, a non-profit operated by local business leaders.

It might likewise ultimately mean formally combining Concordia Parish and Adams County’s economic development efforts under one umbrella, she said.

“It is really going to take the business community saying this is what makes sense,” Malone said.

“We have had informal conversations before, and it does make sense. There is really not a bad angle to it that I can see. The one thing we have is a state line we have to deal with, and figuring out how to overcome that is going to be a big obstacle, as well as figuring out how to share resources and revenues.”

In the short term, the CPED has gotten the Concordia Parish Police Jury to commit $5,000 toward its operations, the City of Vidalia $5,100 and the Village of Ridgecrest $800.

In reaching out to the business community, CPED has gotten $9,000 in commitments.

CPED originally sought $25,000 from the public sector — an amount based on population of different parts of the parish — but could not get the commitments, Malone said, before seeking to get the private sector to match the lesser amount. The original goal was to raise $50,000.

“My goal is now to get $11,000 from the private sector, which would be a dollar-per-dollar match,” she said. “I am pleased that the business community has been very open in supporting our organization so far.”

CPED Chairman Richard Young said the business community should continue to support the effort because a successful industrial recruiting agency will have ripple effects through the community.

“Economic development is bringing tax dollars back to our community, and it is bringing jobs to our community,” he said.

“(CPED) is not just there for new businesses, it is there for existing businesses as well.”

Moving forward, the key will be to keep expenses down, and CPED is partnering with the City of Vidalia and Natchez Inc. for some of its marketing efforts, Malone said.

Concordia Economic Development can be reached at 318-336-3635.