Seventy percent of the general fund revenue in Enterprise is due to retail dollars.
That was just one of the statistics that Jonathan Tullos shared with the Enterprise City Council at a second in a planned series of strategic planning work sessions held Nov. 24.
“Not to talk about any specific projects,” Enterprise City Council President Turner Townsend told the council that includes two first term councilmen. “I asked him to brief everyone on where we are, where we are going and some goals that we have as a city.”
Tullos is the executive director of the 26-year-old Wiregrass Economic Development Corporation which has a 26 member board of directors whose purpose is “to foster and encourage responsible, economic development activities that result in job creation, retention, increased tax base and an improved sustainability and quality of life for the citizens of Coffee and Geneva Counties and the city of Daleville.”
Recruiting new industry, retaining existing jobs, workforce development and education, marketing, retail recruitment and grant-seeking are among the responsibilities Tullos outlined for the council.
Joining the mayor of every city WEDC represents and representatives from each county commission are also 16 private business owners on the board of directors, Tullos said.
“About 50 percent of our funding comes from the private sector. The other 50 percent comes from the public sector,” Tullos said.
Some recent projects WEDC has on its resume include the Wayne Farms expansion that created 400 jobs, the Ben E. Keith Distribution Center expected to create 350 jobs, HSAA creating 168 jobs and the Veterans Administration Home that is expected to create 250 jobs.
While industrial growth is always a welcomed economic development force, retail recruitment has become more of a developed science. “Retail recruitment has evolved over the past five years or so,” Tullos said. “In Alabama the majority of our tax revenue comes from the retail dollars in the general fund. Leakage is the dollars that our taxpayers are spending somewhere else.”
“Retailers have become very sophisticated and they are looking to maximize their returns. Site selection criteria has gotten more complex,” he added. “There are data driven analytic programs out there that track cell phones.”
Tullos credits the approval of Amendment 772 by the Alabama legislature in 2004 as a significant tool that a community can use to pursue a retail project. “Amendment 772 provides Alabama counties and municipalities with certain tools and incentives to promote economic and industrial development,” he said. “To procure and develop industrial and retail sites or industrial and retail projects, a county or municipality may use public funds to purchase, lease or otherwise acquire developed or undeveloped real estate, factories, buildings, plants, facilities, machine and equipment of any kind.”
A county or municipality may also improve or develop the permitted properties into industrial and retail sites or industrial and retail projects by spending public funds for road construction and grading, drainage, sewers, sewage and waste disposal systems, parking areas and utilities for the industrial and retail sites or projects.
Townsend suggested that the council consider defining some of the economic development goals the city strives to attain to help Tullos most effectively assist the city of Enterprise. “Ultimately those projects have to come before the council and the council gets last say but things are a lot more efficient if (Tullos) knows whether it is something that the council is going to be on board with,” Townsend said.
Prospective incentives for new and expanding retailers locating in the city of Enterprise were outlined as well as basic criteria for existing retail businesses wishing to expand in Enterprise. Having a more formal policy would help the city accomplish mid-range and long range goals. “Some projects have some measurable value but don’t qualify otherwise,” Tullos said.
With an economic development policy, each incentive package would be tailored to the individual applicant and project. Project costs, investments above and beyond a standard scope of work and enhanced features are considered as well as a thorough financial analysis of sales projections before a rebate amount is recommended to the city council for approval. The rebate is generally capped both annually and for a defined period of time or over the life of the incentive.
Projects eligible for consideration are not limited to new projects on vacant commercial property, redevelopment of existing commercial space to recruit new business, revitalization of existing retail space that would contribute to larger program initiatives such as the redevelopment of other key commercial area within the city of Enterprise.
The next strategic planning work session of the Enterprise City Council is Monday, Dec. 7, at 5 p.m.in the Police Department Training Room in Enterprise City Hall. The meeting is open to the public.