City officials ponder bringing recruitment of industry in-house

City officials ponder bringing recruitment of industry in-house
Associate Editor
Strained relations between the Obion County and Union City governments were evident Tuesday night when Union City Mayor Terry Hailey informed the public he believes the council is in general agreement to pursue bringing industrial development in-house.
He said the Obion County Industrial Development Board is made up of people who are not all from within Union City and they’ve “been having problems.”
Councilman Johnny Bacon said, “It is a difficult time. We did not need this atmosphere that our county mayor has set forth and until people in this community go to the polls and that changes, we’ve got to do something now before new people come on board.”
Art Sparks, president of the Obion County Joint Economic Development Corp., told the councilmen he understands where they are coming from and said he was not at Tuesday’s meeting to argue.
He told them the Joint Economic Development Corp. puts 90 percent of its effort toward Union City. He said the corporation has $800,000 in the bank that includes Step-Up Campaign money and money from a grant for the training center.
He said the corporation has used Step-Up money to buy signs for the industrial park and land for the airport. He added it is also there to use as incentives to bring industry to Obion County.
“We don’t owe any money, we have an office and equipment and we pay property taxes,” Sparks said, adding the corporation also runs the training center, which currently has a “positive cash flow.”
Sparks said last year’s expenditures included $53,000 for the training center and $179,000 for the Obion County Chamber of Commerce and the Joint Economic Development Corp.
He told the council in industrial recruitment there is a lot of networking which has to take place. He said he thinks it would cost Union City more than the $100,000 it gives to the corporation.
“The money Union City puts in is primarily from transients because of the hotel/motel tax,” he said, adding the industrial board and chamber also receive money from membership subscriptions.
“To maintain the same level, I would foresee another $100,000,” he said, adding he does not know  how the city would set up the department, since more communities are going to a regional concept for recruiting industry. He said he would also think any meetings would have to be open to the public.
He used an example of working with the City of Martin recently to try to recruit a company looking for an existing building. Martin had one which would have been a good fit, but the company went elsewhere, he said. Sparks said if Martin gets a business, it is also good for Union City.
Sparks then stated, “Maybe we do a poor job of reporting back to you.” He added they are all volunteers and they thought those members who are on the Union City city council would report to the council.
Hailey told Sparks he did not know what to do, but that the corporation has money and can continue to exist. “You have the training center,” the mayor said.
“I know there is money for incentives, but when incentives come up, we’ve paid it,” the mayor said, speaking of Union City. “We have the land, the building and pay the incentives, we might as well operate the show.”
Should that happen, Sparks told the council he will recommend that the Joint Economic Development Corporation be disbanded and the money turned over to the Obion County Chamber of Commerce and Obion County Industrial Development Board. He said the purpose of the corporation was to have a 501(c)(3) that could apply for grants which are not available to government entities, the chamber or the industrial board. He said he would not feel right asking people to meet just for the purpose of applying for grants.
Hailey said although the council was not ready to make a decision at Tuesday’s meeting, it was a good starting point. “We can start a discussion. I think the group is interested in moving it in-house.”
The mayor said there has to be planning and they have to look at the cost. “We will not jump off the bridge. We’ve kind of run into a buzzsaw with the county and don’t know how that all works.”
Sparks said the corporation will be there for the city and would be happy to give input. “We will help you guys out if you decide to go that way,” he said.
In other business, after the meeting was opened in prayer by city attorney Jim Glasgow Jr., the council:
• Passed on second and final reading changes to the city’s sign ordinance.
• Approved a TDOT contract for street work on East Church Street from South Morgan to South Home streets. The area is part of the recent project to rehab the area, where utility lines were replaced and the road replaced. The repair and repaving will cost about $125,000, of which Union City’s portion is $25,000.
City manager Kathy Dillon said the latest work is not because of poor workmanship, but because of the earth shifting. Hailey said historically there has been a problem in that stretch of road, with Public Works director Steve Ladd saying it is caused by water.
• Heard a report from Fire Chief Kelly Edmison about the fire at Greenway Recover & Recycle in the city’s industrial park. It started Thursday morning and firefighters were on the scene until Monday afternoon. Details about the fire were featured in The Messenger on Friday, Monday and Tuesday.
Ms. Dillon commended all the city’s departments, especially the fire department, the community mutual aid departments and EPA for their work during the nearly 100 hour ordeal. She also mentioned the work of the city’s public works and planning and codes enforcement departments. “It took an entire staff and it shows professionalism. We are lucky to have the crew we have,” she said.
• Learned to date there are 1,501 rural fire service subscribers, still about 100 short from last fiscal year.
• Awarded Dennis Scarborough a bid to demolish buildings at 606 East College, 601 East Palmer and 603 East Palmer streets. His bid of $14,495 was the lower of the two complete bids. Hank Riley bid $14,600. Ed McCord submitted a bid, but it was only for two of the properties.
• Learned the recent Union City Police Department seized and surplus vehicle auction yielded $18,000 in funds for the department.
Associate Editor Donna Ryder can be contacted by email at Published in The Messenger 9.19.12

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