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Marianna City Commission opts to stay with JCDC

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Marianna City Commission opts to stay with JCDC

At the regular Marianna City Commission meeting last week, city manager Jim Dean addressed the board about an agenda item.  Dean said, “Commissioner Hamilton, I put this on the agenda for a discussion, or some direction from the commission. As a brief, last month the (Jackson) County Commissioners formally stopped funding the Jackson County Development Council. I put it on the agenda so I could generate some discussion and get some direction from my commission on the direction you want me to go in, or what it is you need me to do, if I need to do anything associated with the actions of the Board of County Commissioners.”

Commissioner Travis Ephraim was the first to speak, “I think we need to be moving forward towards renegotiating our agreement with JCDC in terms of what we as a city would like for them to do at this point. I think that’s a much better use of our funds than pull it from them and invest it into an organization that’s just getting established. Through that agreement, we can set forth a plan for the remainder of this year and next year to see what JCDC can do for the city.”

Commissioner John Roberts spoke highly of what the JCDC has done through its years for both the city and the county, “Everyone wants economic development to occur here in the county, I have sat on the JCDC board as a Marianna member for the past 12 years. I understand what the county has done, and they want to go in a different direction. I wish them the very best of luck. They have some good people that have been actively involved, Commissioner Peacock, and I know Mickey Gilmore’s here, that are actively involved in trying to set up this new entity in developing economic development in the county. As I sit on the JCDC board, sometimes I get the feeling that the general public doesn’t really understand or realize in the last 12 years what the JCDC board has done and accomplished. I asked Bill (Stanton) to give me some figures. JCDC has built an incubator building, we got Rolls Rite Trailers, Mowrey Elevators, Sikes’ Enterprises, Spanish Trail Supply, Family Dollar, Tri-States Cattleman’s Market, Arizona Chemical, Ice River Springs, Love’s truck stop, Whole Source International, Catalyst Fabric Solutions, and Safari Helicopters. Not only did that generate a lot of jobs, we got public infrastructure grants for those facilities. That was infrastructure that was placed here on the ground in Jackson County, that totaled $38 million dollars. Those were grants that JCDC was instrumental in getting for us. One of the people who really helped us was David Melvin. He was very instrumental and helpful in getting a lot of these grants. David, I understand is involved in the new organization. I appreciate what David has done, but JCDC has been working hard. I don’t know of any lead that JCDC has gotten that we have not pursued. Bill pursued some things that I thought were foolish, but if you don’t pursue them, you certainly aren’t going to get them. Bill has tried, and the JCDC board has tried. Those entities I just read off, their private capital investment in this county was $256 million, and that’s ad valorem property taxes that are generated for Jackson County. That’s for the city, the county, and the school board. When we got Family Dollar here, we did have to give up our ad valorem property taxes for 10 years. The school board did not give up ad valorem property taxes, they got taxes from day one from Family Dollar. As a member of the JCDC board, our board has indicated they’re still willing to work for the city as its economical development arm. I think we need to stick with them. I’m all in favor of the new board, I wish them the very best of luck. I want Jim, if he was willing to, to continue to meet with them like he has in the past. I want to work with them. The city has to work with the county. If they don’t, nothing gets accomplished. The city owns with the county jointly the park where Family Dollar and Arizona Chemical are. There’s a lot of property to be developed out there. We are going to have to work with the county to get any development out there. The other main thing the city owns is the industrial park, we certainly will work with the county to do that. Not only has the JCDC accomplished all this in the past 15 years, but they have accumulated from the money left over that coach Bryant talked about. There’s $650,000, and the JCDC board is willing to use those funds to help develop economic development in the county. What’s good for the City of Marianna is good for the county. We have to work together but the county has chosen to go separate ways, and that’s certainly their right and I wish them all the luck in the world. The only other thing I want to say is, the city has been investing $72,000 a year with the JCDC and we were doing one-fourth and three-fourths with the county. That was the operational budget for the JCDC for the last eight years. Our return on investment, we invested $73,000 last year. Those projects I just listed to you generated taxes for the City of Marianna, $191,000. That’s $191,000 of taxes that the City of Marianna would not have gotten had it not been for those properties. Jackson County will have invested $56,000 and they cut off funding February 1st. The county will receive $1,035,914 from those projects that are basically here because of JCDC. We put in our budget for the year of $72,000 and I think we need to not do anything as far as changing the amount we continue to contribute to JCDC. Hopefully either the county or Bill and JCDC can get some more industry here in short order.”

Marianna citizen Elmore Bryant expressed concern that the JCDC was established primarily for the county, “The intent for JCDC in the first beginning was for the county. Now if you’re going to use city money, then they would have to change their intent in working for the city, is that right? We’re not responsible for the whole county if we fund it. Am I right Mayor?”

Mayor Kenny Hamilton said he was not familiar with the agreement.

Elmore Bryant added, “The original intent was for Jackson County. Now that Jackson County said that they are not going to fund the JCDC, then it should be all emphasis on JCDC for the City of Marianna.”

 Commissioner Roberts clarified, “The County has always insisted on 50/50 and I told Bill, “There’s 45,000 people in the county, and there’s 6,500 people in the City of Marianna, and you want us to contribute 50/50. When the Family Dollar came here, the City of Marianna spent $2 million of its own money and Jackson County spent $2 million of its own money. What percentage of the people that work at the Family Dollar do you think live in the city limits as opposed to those living in Jackson County? Even with 50/50, one of the things we bought was the property out there. There’s a lot of undeveloped property out there that we own with the county. If the county gets some industry in here we are going to have to work with the county, there’s no way around it.”

City Manager Jim Dean clarified the funding, “If I could, Mr. Hamilton, what if hypothetically the budget for the JCDC as of tonight, is $120,000 and the city is funding $70,000 of that, the JCDC is going to have to fund the rest of that budget out of their own pocket, which is the board’s money. Just looking at it from the outside in. We’re not funding 100 percent of the operation.”

Commissioner Roberts offered, “JCDC has accumulated through hard work $655,000 sitting there in the bank, that’s JCDC funds. $72,000 a year is what we contributed and that’s not going to run JCDC. JCDC is going to have to use some of its own funds, and there’s enough money in my opinion that if the city doesn’t contribute anything further, and the county never goes back with JCDC to run JCDC for another five or six years, then I don’t know what’s going to happen after that.”

Mickey Gilmore addressed the commission and those present, “What you’re talking about right now is actually the JCDC is called the Jackson County Development Council right? It still labels itself as Jackson County and Jackson County includes all the cities not just Marianna. I just represent a board of probably some of your best leaders in the county, 23 of them to be on the board of directors for the JCEDC. The county is not the only one backing this organization, the cities, not just Marianna, from Sneads all the way to Graceville. All over the board they have representation. Everyone on that board wants to see change. This is a changing world we’re in now. Even my store at the interstate, has totally changed from where it used to be. You walk in and see the changes in technology. You can’t wait for someone to come here anymore. You’ve got to get in there and be able to work all of that technology. I don’t think we’re getting that from the JCDC. I’m not here to debate anything that has been accomplished in the past. What I’m looking at is what’s going to be accomplished in the future. This board that we created is your watch dog over making sure this isn’t a one man or one woman operation. It’s a united operation of Jackson County. All of these people represent every angle of Jackson County and we’re trying to stay its time we go out and facilitate. We can’t wait for someone to call us and say, “Hey, there’s an interest in this.”  We’ve got the college on there. We’ve got the city officials on there. We’ve got first responders on there. We’ve got people from agriculture on there. People all over this county that are going to sit there and start talking about what we need. We’re going to hire a director that’s going to come in here, take over aggressively and pursue this. All of the things you named that y’all have accomplished are fantastic. Understand it wasn’t one person that did that. It was a group of people. Unfortunately, I have to tell you some of those people that were in on getting those groups here and bringing in that business, they’re with us. They left because they don’t see the aggressiveness anymore. Think if you had an aggressive hospitality, and we went out and solicited new types of businesses. Ever since this thing started, I have been getting e-mails that say, ‘Hey look at this, look at this.’ We’re not looking for the big elephant to walk in to this county and say, ‘Hey we got the big elephant and it only took us 50 years to get it.’ What we’re looking for is the small one too. Small technology companies to come in here and manufacturers that come in here and do all this stuff and we’re going to have a group to oversee and make sure this is happening. The only problem I saw with the JCDC was there wasn’t a lot of monitoring of what was going on. There wasn’t a lot of discussion. You ask people what was going on, they had no earthly idea. Whether you were doing it or not, it wasn’t getting put out there. Bill’s done a lot of stuff and he’s very supportive of the group, because we’re going in a direction of where this world is right now.”

Commissioner Roberts addressed Gilmore, “Mickey, I wish you the best of luck, experience and results in the past are an indicator of what’s going to happen in the future. If your group can get other industry in here, fine. If you can find a director anywhere, that has the knowledge of Bill Stanton, I’m proud for you. I don’t know who you’re going to find. Bill Stanton is the only one who has done anything for economic development.” 

Gilmore responded to Roberts, “He didn’t do it by himself. He did it with a team. I guarantee if you look at those grants, it’s not Bill Stanton writing these grants. It’s a group of people doing it, and guess where that group of people are going now? They’re coming to the new organization because they want to move forward. It’s not all about Bill or about us, it’s about this whole community. Understand it’s going to happen. There’s going to be all kinds of things that we’re going to do. It’s not just the board, we have developed an advisory board where we will actually call you up and say, ‘Hey come and talk to us and tell us what you know about this.’”

Roberts responded to Gilmore, “If you don’t get a good administrative director that will do the nuts and bolts you can have a hundred people on the board.”

Gilmore asked Roberts, “You don’t think there’s other people that can do that?”

Roberts said, “What I’m saying to you is this, I think you’re forgetting about Holmes County, Washington County, Calhoun County, our adjoining counties. You can’t name a single industry that they’ve gotten here in the last 15 years in those adjoining counties.”

Gilmore said to Roberts, “We have to look to the future.” 

Roberts: “It will be interesting to see how much money the county puts toward your organization. It’s going to be interesting in seeing all of these neighboring towns that you have a member on, how much they are going to contribute to the economic development.”

Gilmore ended with, “I appreciate you letting me say my piece and we’re going forward with it. It’s all for Jackson County. Not for us.”

The Marianna City Commission took no action saying they would bring it up in budget in October and make any changes they voted on at that time.

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