The Economic Development Corporation doesn’t exist just to recruit new businesses to town. The EDC also can help current businesses expand.
At last week’s City Council meeting, Monica MacKay, interim executive director of the EDC, discussed the EDC’s proposed fiscal year budget with the council, and during her presentation, she mentioned how incentives can be extended to current businesses.
One example is Black Meg 43.
Economic Development Corporation board members approved an agreement in December 2012 to grant up to $40,000 to help the owners of Black Meg 43 with improvements to its future location, according to a Herald story. (MacKay said in an email July 8 that EDC could only fund about $28,000 in qualified infrastructure reimbursements.)
The restaurant moved across U.S. Highway 190, from 1501 W. U.S. 190, to a former Kettle Restaurant building. The Kettle closed in early December 2012, and Black Meg 43 owners negotiated a 20-year lease with the owners of the former Kettle Restaurant. (Black Meg 43 moved when CVS Pharmacy announced its intention to purchase Black Meg 43’s location.)
Moving into the building allowed Black Meg 43 to increase seating by about 100 people, the Herald reported.
Funds for Black Meg 43 came from the EDC’s approved 2012-2013 Business Retention and Incentives Budget, the Herald reported.
Money that can be used to help businesses comes from the Incentive Fund of the EDC budget, with a certain amount earmarked for this very purpose, but the EDC board may choose to increase this amount if there are qualified projects, MacKay said in an email.
MacKay told the council that in addition to Black Meg 43, Bill French Jewelers received EDC help to expand its property.
“We’re always ready to assist any business that wants to expand, and prepared to offer any assistance we can in terms of that,” MacKay said.
In an email July 8, MacKay said Bill French Jewelers “doubled in size, adding a lot more inventory. Their economic impact is very high in terms of sales and sales tax receipts. Plus, Bill owns his building and these improvements added to the assessed value, adding to the property tax rolls.”
A business needs to qualify for assistance, meaning it needs to expand or add employees or product line, MacKay told the council.
“A lot of it would depend on the type of business,” MacKay said. “We actually have a lot of small manufacturers here that could qualify for more incentives in terms of that. We believe that it is just as important, maybe even more important, to support the businesses that are already here as opposed getting to the new ones that are coming in.”
Businesses to be helped are considered on a case-by-case basis, MacKay said, and the laws that the EDC abide by are the same for business retention and business attraction.
“Obviously, there’s more that we can do for a manufacturing/primary job creators than we can do for a commercial enterprise,” she said to the council. “Commercial enterprisers, we are limited to infrastructure. But there are other things we can do for folks who manufacture products that are sold outside our community.”
MacKay said in an email that EDC has been working with two local businesses over the last year or so, with one business expanding its operation to include manufacturing food products for distribution nationwide.
“This project is still in the early stages,” she said. “We also are working with a local manufacturer who wants to expand by relocating and adding more space as well as manufacturing equipment.”
MacKay said a lot of the assistance EDC offers is not money-based.
“Monthly evening workshops are held to help local business owners get up to speed on new laws that pertain to taxes, health care and human resources,” she said. “There is always a daytime workshop on the third Tuesday of the month; right now, it’s a series about business plans.
“When that is complete, we will hold ‘Business 101’ workshops that introduce those considering opening a business to what they will need to get started on that path. The Business Retention Specialist (Diane Drussell) has a steady stream of prospective and current business owners that she meets with every week for confidential, one-on-one counseling. She also visits several businesses each month to see how they’re doing and if there’s anything the CCEDC could do to help.”
MacKay said the EDC also funds two websites, which are mirrors of each other: finditincove.com and buyitincove.com. They serve as a portal where customers can find information on buying products and services within the Cove community, MacKay said. Businesses can register and promote their business on this site at no cost to the business.
MacKay said, in the next year, the EDC should conduct a survey of local business owners, as it has done in the past.
“It helps us design programs and services that fit the needs of our local business community, gives us an idea of how businesses view our local economy and if there are any issues that the CCEDC and perhaps the City of Copperas Cove could address to help all the businesses in Copperas Cove,” she said.