EDCCC member talks about the importance of the 1/2-cent economic development sales tax.

How important is it that Clark County’s half-cent sales tax be renewed next month? Asked that question earlier this week, Damon Daniels, owner of Cowboy Dispatch, a small trucking company in Alpine, and a member of the EDCCC, replied quickly, “It’s probably the most crucial tax issue for economic benefits in my lifetime.” “Just about every city, every county in the United States has some type of economic organization in which they can take businesses or they have an industrial park,” Daniels said. “We are lucky to have a half-cent sales tax. We have an economic development board, we have the Alliance, we have the industrial park in Gum Springs, we have most of what it takes when we started. “Looking at economic development and a strategic planning process, one of the things that came out of that for the EDCCC was that it provided a place where people could come in one door and talk with one person or a group of people rather than having to go all over town to find someone to talk to about either investing in a business, opening a business or learning more about the area. We also found out that this was going to take a lot of money: We didn’t know where our Clark County employees lived, how many employees our businesses had, what their benefits were or what their average wages were. Earlier when a prospective business came in and asked where our work force came from, we couldn’t tell them. “Now that we have this information, it’s become one of the handiest things we have ever had. When a prospective business comes through that door, we can show them the education background, skill sets, and what we can do for them. We can identify properties and provide incentive money. So what we have is matching monies to match what the prospect can do to bring the business into Clark County. “If that half-cent sales tax is not renewed, the tax goes away. We will no longer have any money, nothing to bring to the table. If a company is looking at Camden and Arkadelphia, for example, if Camden has an economic incentive package and we don’t, guess where the business will go? We now have that package. But if we don’t renew this tax, it will go away in March.” Daniels also talked about the much-discussed but little understood “transload facility.” “A transload facility is truck to rail or rail to truck,” he said. “If a company has rail access for its product, they can load it on their truck, take it to Gum Springs, take it off the truck, set it on the dock and put it on a rail car. But normally, they wouldn’t have any access to rail. Ever since there has been any talk of having an industrial park or having any industry within a commerce park, they have always said, “We’ve gotta have rail inside there.” Any company, in the last seven years, that has applied to us for any kind of economic incentive to come to Clark County has asked for rail. Up to now, we could not provide that. “Now, if the tax passes, we have access to it. We’re not going to put spur lines all through the industrial park; at first, we will install one transload facility. We will assist the companies that are not only inside our county borders but we are also going to bring in materials from outside our county. And I believe this thing is gonna be huge. I believe that the companies we have identified will use it. Just the other day, Alcoa came on board and said they need it. Rather than try to redo their track that’s getting old and dilapidated, it would be much easier for them to just use the new transload facility. “Years ago, when the CCIC started looking at trying to put some rail spurs within the industrial park, it was going to cost less than a million dollars. They couldn’t come up with the money because the CCIC didn’t have that money. So, now we have a tax and we’re not looking to put spur lines all through the industrial park; we’re trying to do one transload facility that will not only assist the companies that are inside our county borders but it is also going to bring in materials from outside our county. “The company that we’re looking at to run this facility will be hiring local people and there is job growth coming off that. It is also going to help us attract new businesses. When you have a county that says, ‘We’ve got a place for you, we’ve got the land, we have the incentive package,’ the state can come in and match it.” Downs:In my judgment, this is a no brainer! Clark County voters must band together to renew this half-cent sales tax.