Vidalia takes on more of funding for economic development director

Published 12:03 am Thursday, July 9, 2015

VIDALIA — The City of Vidalia will significantly underwrite some of the Concordia Parish Economic Development (CPED) office’s costs in the future.

The CPED board voted Wednesday morning to approve in principle the terms of a memorandum of understanding in which the City of Vidalia will pay 75 percent of the economic director’s salary and 25 percent of the administrative assistant’s pay.

Under the agreement, the city will also provide office space at Vidalia City Hall and pay directly for any travel the office does on behalf of the City.

Email newsletter signup

CPED will, in turn, dedicate 75 percent of its time to Vidalia projects and share its administrative assistant’s duties with the City of Vidalia’s accounting office.

While the memorandum of understanding has not been drafted in its final form, the board authorized Chairman Richard Young to execute the document when it is completed.

CPED Executive Director Heather Malone said the agreement is in essence an acknowledgement that many of the office’s projects are centered in the Vidalia area.

“This will make it seem a little more fair to some people because Vidalia has some more skin in the game,” she said.

Vidalia Mayor Hyram Copeland — who is the CPED board’s vice chairman — said the arrangement would not stop the office’s work on parish-wide projects.

“Anything as far as Heather’s job pertaining to Concordia economic development, there will be no change there,” he said. “If they need her assistance, she is there.”

The economic development district, which is funded by a hotel-motel tax, has been cash strapped in recent years. Malone said the new agreement is a creative solution that will free up money for new endeavors.

For example, the district’s rent payments for office space in the Vidalia Conference and Convention Center have been reallocated to marketing.

“I am excited about the ability to actually spread the word about who we are and what we have to offer,” she said. “Marketing and advertising is going to be our main expense.”

While the office is moving to City Hall, it will retain its phone numbers, email addresses and post office boxes, Malone said.

The board followed-up the vote by authorizing the office to engage Marketing Alliance, the company that developed its current website, to create a marketing campaign for economic development.

In other news, the board voted to pay for half of a feasibility study for hotels in the Ferriday area.

Board member Beatrice Cummings, who serves as Ferriday’s economic developer, said the town has been looking to recruit a new hotel to the area.

“They all wanted a feasibility study first,” Cummings said. “If other businesses want to come to Ferriday in the future and wants a feasibility study, I want to be able to give one to them.”

Police Jury President Melvin Ferrington said the study is something Ferriday needs.

“I would be in favor of that if Ferriday could come up with a percentage of it,” he said.

The proposed study by Spurrier Consulting will cost $4,600, she said.

The CPED board said they were willing to pay for half of the study if it could also be used in parish-wide marketing.