Morning Sun
  • EDAC plans change in tactics

  • While Tuesday’s meeting was, on paper, for the Pittsburg City Commission, the most significant business had to do with the Economic Development Advisory Committee (EDAC).

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  • While Tuesday’s meeting was, on paper, for the Pittsburg City Commission, the most significant business had to do with the Economic Development Advisory Committee (EDAC).
    Blake Benson, Pittsburg Area Chamber of Commerce president, spoke for the EDAC about some planned changes for the group and how it uses the Revolving Loan Fund generated by sales tax in the city. The EDAC typically uses these funds to give loans to expanding or growing businesses within city limits.
    Benson said that after a three-hour retreat by the EDAC, the group decided to put some of its plans down on paper, as well as to set its criteria and to make a few long-term changes.
    Benson said the group sees its role as twofold. First, “to maintain a strong economic foundation within the City of Pittsburg through continued development and enhancement of the current businesses,” and second “to create a stronger city for the long term through the addition of new businesses that fit the needs of citizens and create value for Pittsburg.”
    Going forward, the group will have a more formal set of criteria for loan applications, which will help those applying know what will be considered. The criteria include: job creation (both the number and the average pay), the community need/value provided, the presentation verification of the viability of the project, the strategic value to the community and city, an understanding on total return on investment, and the financial strength to support and repay the loan.
    Commissioners then heard another laundry list of materials that the EDAC could consider when weighing these choices, including a business plan, past tax returns and more.
    Furthermore, Benson spoke of some long-term goals for the EDAC, like keeping at least $2 million in balance at all times and discontinuing the use of forgivable loans.
    “They’d like to keep a $2 million balance in the RLF. If a mega project looked at Pittsburg, a large project that needed help to make it happen, they want to have the funds there,” Benson told the city commissioners. “The EDAC is also recommending that they get away from [forgivable loans]. Times have changed from when those were used. The economy was down, but times have changed, and the economy is getting better now.”
    Benson also spoke of a renewed focus on small businesses, to get out the message that it’s not just large businesses that receive RLF loans.
    “They take their role very seriously,” Benson said.
    Commissioners applauded the efforts of the EDAC. Commissioners O’Bryan and Munsell thanked the EDAC for moving toward small businesses, while Ketterman said that he’s glad to see the group move away from forgivable loans.
    “I don’t care if it’s a zero interest loan,” he said.
    Page 2 of 2 - City manager Daron Hall said he likes the new direction of the EDAC.
    “A lot of people aren’t familiar with the way the EDAC works. Just about everything on your screen is how they’re chartered to do business,” Hall said. “When I first got here, I asked that they go through everything again, and make sure they don’t see something big they’re missing... The forgivable loans, it’s not necessarily a policy change, it’s just a new way of doing business.”
    Commissioners also heard an economic update from Benson, who also serves as the city’s economic development wing.
    Benson said the city’s unemployment rate was at 6.1 percent, slightly up from February (5.8 percent) but down sharply from March 2012 (7.6 percent). As for sales tax figures, the collections have been up each month this year as compared to this time last year, and the sales tax collections are up 5.74 percent as a whole at this point of the year. Finally, Benson mentioned property valuation of new building permits, and said that valuation was up close to $1.5 million more than this time last year for a total of about $3.46 million, year to date.
    Finally, Hall announced the hiring of Mike Simons as the new Pittsburg Fire Chief. Simons had been the interim fire chief since the retirement of Scott Crain in late 2012.

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