Additional steps have been taken this month to bring the first business under the umbrella of the newly established St. Clair Enhanced Enterprise Zone.
On Monday night during its regular meeting, the St. Clair Board of Aldermen passed a resolution that approves the application and notice of intent submitted by River’s Edge Products Inc. for benefits supplied by the creation of the EEZ.
The resolution was passed unanimously.
“We have been working toward this one for a long time,” City Administrator Rich Childers said before the board’s vote.
The aldermen’s resolution came on the heels of a similar resolution passed the week before by the EEZ advisory board. It unanimously passed a resolution that recommended to the board of aldermen that the application and notice of intent for River’s Edge be approved.
After that meeting on July 9, a public hearing was conducted prior to the rescheduled board of aldermen meeting to seek input on the submission of a Community Development Block Grant application to provide city water and sewer to the affected portion of the Wagner Industrial Park on the city’s north side.
No public comment was given, however.
The resolution approved by the six-member EEZ board stated that the group has reviewed the materials presented by River’s Edge Products as its application and notice of intent and that they are sufficient and in accordance with the requirements of the Missouri Department of Economic Development.
River’s Edge Vice President Mark Mansfield gave the EEZ board a brief presentation on his company during the July 9 EEZ board meeting and what it plans to do now that the EEZ officially has been approved by the state.
“We’ve outgrown where we are,” he said. “We’ve been searching frantically to get everything under one roof. This opportunity came along and fits our needs.”
Currently, River’s Edge operates out of two facilities in Union and three in St. Clair, Mansfield said. Its home office is at 1 River’s Edge Court along North Commercial Avenue.
“We looked for a place in Pacific and Fenton,” Mansfield said. “But, we really wanted to stay close to St. Clair because of our employees. Locating right here will make it easier for everyone, including our employees, and will allow us to grow.”
The company has plans to build a 100,000-plus-square-foot facility on a 12.5-acre parcel of land in the Wagner Industrial Park. The newly relocated Interstate 44 North Outer Road provides access to the property. River’s Edge plans to purchase the land.
The expanded facility will provide several new jobs as required by the state to qualify for the EEZ tax abatements.
Mansfield said that “business has been very good.”
He said River’s Edge is operating at 40 percent ahead of last year’s pace, “and last year was a record year for us.”
River’s Edge Products advertises itself as the “premier source for innovative and exciting gift, decor and novelty items for the outdoor and horse/Western enthusiast.
“Our home decor merchandise and unique gifts are designed and developed for lovers of the great outdoors,” information from the River’s Edge website states. “Our products are for individuals who are proud to decorate their homes, cabins, lake houses and anyplace else they want to display their love for outdoor-related activities.”
Mansfield said the wholesaler’s largest client is Bass Pro Shops.
“We’re excited about this,” Mansfield said. “And our employees are excited.”
“And we’re excited,” St. Clair Mayor Ron Blum said immediately after Mansfield’s comment.
St. Clair’s EEZ was approved by the state late last month. The zone actually extends well beyond the city limits. It includes Parkway Village as well as land on both sides of the Interstate 44 corridor from Gray Summit to Stanton.
An Enhanced Enterprise Zone is an economic development tool designed to assist communities that qualify. It is based on demographic criteria that includes U.S. Census data, unemployment and poverty statistics and the presence of blight. In order to qualify, the unemployment rate in the targeted area must be higher than county and state figures, and 60 percent of the median family incomes in the zone must be lower than 90 percent of the county and state average.
Grey Jackson, economic development incentive specialist for the Missouri Department of Economic Development, said during the application process that just slightly over 60 percent of those median family incomes in the proposed EEZ are lower than the 90 percent and that the unemployment rate in the area is 13.1 percent.
The zone works by supplying a tax abatement program for current businesses that want to expand or new businesses that want to relocate within the zone. The benefits apply only to those that qualify after the EEZ is established.
Language associated with the EEZ states that eligible facilities will receive a minimum property tax abatement of 50 percent for a minimum of 10 years. To qualify, the business must employ at least two new employees and spend a minimum of $100,000 in new investment for a new or expanding industry or $1 million for a replacement facility.
The local EEZ advisory board has established a maximum 80 percent abatement over 20 years.
Retail businesses do not qualify.
During the public hearing on July 9, Childers informed those in attendance that “the city is working with a local firm (River’s Edge) on expansion and a replacement facility.”
He then went through proposed costs to expand water and sewer to the parcel that River’s Edge will use. Two other adjacent lots in the industrial park also will get water and sewer hookups.
According to information shared during the public hearing, the total amount of money estimated for the project is $222,394. Of that, $179,099 would come from the grant, leaving $43,295 as a city expense.
The city’s portion of the project will be financed through available reserves for water and sewer improvements, Childers said. The city’s costs will go toward acquisition of easements, engineering design and construction inspection.
Neither the aldermen nor anyone in attendance had any questions or comments.
During the aldermen meeting that followed the public hearing, the board approved a proposal from the Meramec Regional Planning Commission in St. James to provide administrative services for the CDBG to extend the water and sewer services. Its price was $9,600 and was considered to be the lowest and best bid.