A contract was signed last week cementing an agreement between the city and the St. Clair Area Chamber of Commerce.
The one-year pact calls for the Chamber to provide some economic development services for the city. In return, the Chamber will receive $6,500 for the work. The contract was signed by Mayor Ron Blum and 2013 Chamber board President Bob Triphahn.
In January, the city’s board of aldermen approved an ordinance authorizing Blum to enter into the agreement for the professional services with the St. Clair Chamber. The Chamber board then approved the same contract later in the month.
The city and Chamber have been negotiating a potential deal for several months. The sticking point was the amount of compensation to be received for the work.
“I see this partnership as a win-win situation for the city and Chamber,” Triphahn said after the deal was signed at city hall. “The information generated from the economic development study will improve the overall St. Clair business environment. Our agreement with the city will provide the necessary infrastructure to keep and attract business to our area.”
The latest version of the contract between the two entities states that the Chamber will complete the city’s Enhanced Enterprise Zone application process and seek the city’s designation as an EEZ from the Missouri Department of Economic Development. Also, the Chamber will be responsible for updating the city’s existing market area demographics from the 2000 Census data to 2010.
Both deadlines are before the midpoint of the year.
“As we continue to grow and develop St. Clair, the city looks forward to increasing partnerships with the state, the county, the school, fire and ambulance districts, the Chamber and the private sector,” said St. Clair City Administrator Rick Childers, who helped negotiate the contract and worked with an executive committee of the Chamber to finalize details.
“It’s only by working together that we can ever hope to continue the successes we’ve attained over the past several years, and our joint efforts with the Chamber to make the Enhanced Enterprise Zone a reality is one of numerous examples of the ongoing partnerships the city has cultivated.”
City officials have said there already are a couple of businesses interested in taking advantage of the EEZ once it becomes a reality.
An Enhanced Enterprise Zone is an economic development tool designed to assist communities that qualify. In order to qualify, the unemployment rate in the targeted zone 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.
St. Clair officials first decided to work toward establishing an EEZ in 2011 but have not had the manpower to proceed.
During meetings around that earlier time frame, the Franklin County Commission approved going forward with the EEZ application process, but said city governments will have to determine the size of each zone from qualifying U.S. Census tracts as well as what kinds of businesses will be able to seek property tax abatements associated with the zone.
Childers earlier has said St. Clair’s EEZ will stretch along the Interstate 44 corridor from near Stanton to near Villa Ridge and will encompass the entire St. Clair city limits as well as Parkway Village. Census information from 2010 states that 10,378 individuals live in that proposed zone.
The zone works by supplying a tax abatement program for current businesses that want to expand or new businesses that want to locate here. The benefits apply only to those that qualify after the Enhanced Enterprise Zone is established. It does not include the retail sector.
“The ultimate goal is creating jobs and business investment within the zone, which benefits the community,” Childers told The Missourian for an earlier story. “You give new or existing businesses a tax break to build or expand locally, and the cost of this is zero dollars to the taxpayer.”
According to information from the state, the EEZ program is a discretionary business recruitment and expansion program offering state tax credits, accompanied local real estate property tax abatement, to Enhanced Business Enterprises. Tax credits may be provided each year for five years after the project commences operations.
To receive tax credits for any of the five years, the facility must create and maintain the minimum of two new employees and $100,000 in new investment for a new or expanded facility or two new employees and a $1 million investment for a replacement business facility.
Ultimately, an Enhanced Enterprise Zone board would be put together. Those board members — which must include a member from school districts serving the area, one member from the other taxing entities within the zone and five members appointed by the chief authority, such as the mayor — will complete the application and submit it to the county and state for approval. Ultimately, that board will manage the EEZ.
“These businesses do and will provide our community with jobs and services and our city with increased revenues that will help improve the city’s infrastructure,” Triphahn said. “I see this agreement as a first step in a many-year partnership between each group.”
The Chamber has said Executive Director Angela Crawford will be spearheading the project. The contract is between the city and the Chamber board, however.
“While agreements like this are common in small communities around the state, this is a first for us, and it is an exciting time for the Chamber and the city,” Crawford said. “We’ve worked hard to make sure that the community as a whole will benefit from the services the Chamber will be providing.”