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Smith County approves EDC incentive fund, eyes potential large employer

Faith Harper - Tyler Morning Telegraph

Published on Tuesday, 31 January 2017 23:41 - Written by FAITH HARPER, fharper@tylerpaper.com

Smith County economic development officials hope a new incentive fund will attract new employers, including a business that has expressed interest in bringing as many as 1,000 new jobs to the area. 

Smith County and the Tyler Economic Development Council agreed to create an incentive fund program to attract employers and retain jobs outside of incorporated cities on Tuesday, when the Commissioners Court approved the creation of the fund and allocated $50,000 starting capital.

Those funds will be used at the discretion of the EDC to offer to potential new employers and to current employers looking to expand their production and workforce.

 

Eligible expenses include utility connections, payment of professional fees, construction of access roads, environmental studies, site and right of way studies, engineering studies and economic impact analysis, among others.

 

“It’s only $50,000 - that’s significant, but on a big project that could be taken up very easily,” Tom Mullins, president of the Tyler Area EDC, said. “You can also consider this to be a pilot program. We are looking at it on an annual budget to see how it goes this year and what kind of results we get. We may consider it for another year, but for right now it’s on a year-to-year basis.”

The timing of the move is aimed at attracting a specific large employer.

 

That project is still in its research phase, and has not been made public yet, Mullins said. It has potential to create over 1,000 jobs in Smith County and could expand into neighboring counties, Mullins said.

The company is evaluating sites along the Interstate 20 corridor in the northeast portion of the county, he said.

There are still a lot of variables to work out with the project, and ultimately, Smith County may not be selected, but having the incentive fund would be another tool to help attract new employers, Mullins said.

If the prospective employer falls through, the funds will be spent on smaller incentive projects, Mullins said. 

“We appreciate the commitment by the commissioners and the judge to be supportive and help be competitive for these jobs,” Mullins said. “Most of these companies have other options. They can go to another location or state, and if you’re in a position where you don’t have tools to put in play, you can lose that opportunity.”

The county’s program would be similar to the city of Tyler’s incentive fund, which reimburses potential employers for water and sewer expenses, Mullins said. He thanked County Judge Nathaniel Moran for his help in creating the program.

“Moran is the one who came up with the city’s incentive concept when he was on the Tyler City Council,” Mullins said. “He is pro-economic development, but he also likes for everything to be buttoned down, like you expect from an attorney. He thinks in a very detailed (manner). It doesn’t surprise me that now that he’s in the judge’s chair that he is the one that said, ‘let’s develop an incentive program that will benefit the county.’”

In other business:

Commissioners approved the formal completion of roadwork on County Road 4212.

The court approved a resolution of support for Wood Springs Estates in Lindale. The development is an affordable housing development aimed at senior residents.

Commissioners tabled a measure to donate an out-of-use Chevrolet Tahoe from a constable’s office to the Flint-Gresham Volunteer Fire Department, but approved allowing the purchasing department to request bids to update the Smith County Hazard Mitigation Plan through the Fire Marshal’s Office.

The governing body also approved the termination of the month-to-month contract to provide inmate phone services. A new contract, which will be cheaper for inmates and their families, is set to begin in February.

Twitter: @TMTFaith