FCEDC still considering sales tax ballot

8/29/2013

By SCOTT AUST

By SCOTT AUST

saust@gctelegram.com

After bringing up the idea last month, the Finney County Economic Development Corp. Board of Directors continued talking Wednesday about pursuing a possible sales tax initiative for voters to consider late next year.

The group would like to use at least a portion of a quarter-cent sales tax currently being used to pay for past improvements to the Law Enforcement Center when it expires, which is anticipated to happen sometime next year.

The FCDEC wants to use funds generated from the sales tax for economic development incentives. Twice in the past, in 2005 and 2007, county voters rejected a quarter-cent sales tax proposal for economic development.

Since talking about the idea at its last meeting, the board hasn't taken any further action. Board member Bob Kreutzer asked the rest of the board what the time table is for making a decision.

Lona DuVall, FCEDC president, said the board should decide whether to move forward at its September meeting so the issue could be taken to the county commission in October so the county could review it for a future ballot question. The next general election is in November 2014.

DuVall said the FCEDC should get its proposal to the county commission this quarter because the county is considering using sales tax money for another project. The county has discussed asking voters to approve using sales taxes to pay for a new building that would house several court-related agencies in one location but haven't made a decision yet.

DuVall said there may be enough funds generated by the quarter-cent sales tax for the county to split the revenue and do both projects.

"But they need to have all of the facts in front of them when the other entities are presenting theirs, as well," she said. "We need to have ours in front of them at the same time, and if it's possible, they can put us both on the ballot."

Tom Walker, FCEDC board chairman, said the board's finance committee would meet in the next couple of weeks to look at some numbers.

In other business Wednesday:

* Allie Medina, FCEDC project manager, reported to the board about a new real estate search system, called LOIS, that is in the process of being set up on the FCEDC website. The new system would allow more information to be listed and accessed by realtors or companies looking at a particular available site to operate on, or for a landowner with ground available for commercial or industrial use to have their property listed.

Under the current system, only basic information about a property is available. The new system would allow additional information about the property to be listed, such as rail, water and other infrastructure access.

DuVall said the additional information that can be included in the new system also will provide realtors a better marketing tool for available commercial properties. The system is provided through the FCEDC's membership in the western Kansas Rural Economic Development Alliance, the economic development organization that operates in western Kansas and won't cost FCEDC money.

"It sounds like an interesting system," Kreutzer said. "Rather than creating a different wheel and putting it out there, it would be an opportunity to give a lot more exposure not only to us but to all the individual property owners."

It may be a few months before the system is fully operational. The board discussed holding a workshop in the future to educate those interested about the new system.

* DuVall said a new prospect, a food processing company, has expressed interest in locating in Finney County and being operational by late 2014. She said the FCEDC received a request for more information about possible locations for the company from the Kansas Department of Commerce earlier this month. The company apparently was pleased with what they heard in the FCEDC proposal, she said.

* Regarding the Holcomb Plaza project, DuVall said there is a company that has expressed interest in building a convenience store in the development. DuVall said she is hopeful about signing both the convenience store and the hotel at one time to really get the project moving forward.

* The Finney County job fair is scheduled for Sept. 10 at the Clarion Inn Conference Center.

DuVall said the FCEDC will be advertising in the Wichita and Guymon, Okla., markets through an arrangement with KIUL radio and the Mid-America Ag Network.

"We're getting a bigger reach this year, mostly because we know our unemployment is very low here," she said. "If we can draw some folks in from other areas, we feel that will be beneficial to our employers. They offered us that in exchange for their booth so ... we didn't have to increase the budget for advertising."

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